My wife was looking at an ad for one of these things and asked me “How do you pronounce that?” while pointing to the word lame. I said “…I dunno,” and dashed for the dictionary. But it wasn’t in M-W or AHD, though they had lame (lām) ‘thin metal plate’ and lamé (lă-mā´) ‘shiny fabric woven with metallic threads, often of gold or silver’; it wasn’t even in the OED. Fortunately, any number of online sites, like this one, explain that it’s pronounced “LAHM” and that it’s from French; presumably it, like the words above, derives from Latin lāmina ‘thin plate.’ This has been a public service announcement, and a nudge to lexicographers.


  1. OTOH I have not been able to find a satisfactory etymology for poolish, a type of pre-ferment used as a stage in breadmaking.

  2. Strewth that thing looks dangerous! Is that a so-called ‘safety razor’ blade jammed on the top? How do slide the blade on/off without slicing your fingers?

    Something like the ‘slashing tail’ of this beast.

  3. Strewth that thing looks dangerous!

    Cooks and bakers often have much-scarred fingers. These things are also scary as hell.

  4. Wonderful new addition to my vocabulary, but not to my kitchen. I am lame, and my poor motor skills mean there’s not a whelk’s chance in a supernova I’d use that lame. Though editing a lame photo in GIMP I could manage

  5. Michael Vnuk says

    The first link actually has the pronunciation, or did you give the link just for the picture?

  6. Just for the picture.

  7. marie-lucie says

    The French pronunciation is (la) lame, with equal a’s for the article and the noun. LAHM may be the anglophone one, but French people would not recognize it.

    The TLFI gives a number of meanings, many of them technical, but all of them referring to something thin and flat: a ‘blade’ of some kind (though not of grass).

    I was surprised not to see among them a definition referring to a ‘long sea wave’, apparently an older word, later replaced by la vague, a Normand word cognate with English “wave”, which Parisians learned when railroads leading to Normandy beaches allowed large numbers of them to go ‘sea-bathing’.

  8. FWIW: According to French Wikipedia, the process called poolish was introduced to France in 1840 from Poland by an Austrian baker. A footnote on that article references Lauren Chattman’s Bread Making: A Home Course, which I don’t have on hand. A quick look via Google text search gives the same story essentially (“The name of this wet starter signals its origin as a technique that Polish bakers introduced to Austrian bakers, who in turn brought it to France.” p132)

  9. William Boyd says

    I’ve baked bread for decades and on occasion have run the blade of a sharp knife. Most kitchens, I understand, do have many such blades, most sharpened, some dull.

  10. There are many loanwords where letter a is pronounced with the PALM vowel in AmE but the TRAP vowel in BrE. Googling I provisionally decide ‘lame’ is not one of them.

  11. The English digraph <oo> and suffix -ish in poolish are hard to reconcile with a French origin. I saw a spelling pouliche somewhere, but that normally means ‘filly’.

  12. marie-lucie says

    The TLFI has pouliche as ‘young mare who has not had a foal’ (the only meaning I know), also slangy (probably older) ‘young woman’. The Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française does not even list the word!

  13. @marie-lucie
    I don’t quite understand what you’re saying. My best guess is you’re implying LAHM doesn’t stand for /lam/ but for /lɑm/. Would you mind elucidating further?

  14. I always thought it was lamé? The wikipedia article seems to think so as well.

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