Erin McKean recently pointed out a wonderful entry in her Wordnik site: queez-madam, listed only in the Century Dictionary and defined as “The cuisse-madam, a French jargonelle pear.” [Actually, it’s also in the Funk & Wagnalls unabridged and in the Merriam-Webster New International, 2nd edition. Thanks, Philip!] The locus classicus for the word, and indeed the only place it appears to have been used in English literature, is this remarkable sentence from Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, spoken by Andrew Fairservice: “He’s no a’thegither sae void o’ sense neither; he has a gloaming sight o’ what’s reasonable—that is anes and awa’—a glisk and nae mair; but he’s crack-brained and cockle-headed about his nipperty-tipperty poetry nonsense—He’ll glowr at an auld-warld barkit aik-snag as if it were a queez-maddam in full bearing; and a naked craig, wi’ a bum jawing ower’t, is unto him as a garden garnisht with flowering knots and choice pot-herbs.” I really should dive into Scott one of these days.


  1. I can’t help but see queef-madam at first glance.
    (BTW, we’re not allowed to have tumblr sites as our URLs? The error terms it “questionable content”. Oh well.)

  2. It surprises me that the Century Dictionary thought it worthwhile to devote an entry to Scott’s idiosyncratic representation of Andrew Fairservice’s pronunciation of a variety of pear. I guess it is a tribute to their opinion of him as a major writer. Nonetheless, writers have produced an enormous variety of spellings and forms when attempting to record nonstandard dialects, especially ones they don’t speak, and I don’t really see the point of filling up dictionaries with them. Explanatory footnotes in the work itself, or a specialized glossary, at best.

  3. I could transpose most of that into vulgar English, except for one clause: glowr at an auld-warld barkit aik-snag–“glower at an old world something something or other” is the best I can do. Can someone clarify, please?
    And yes, Scott is well worth diving into, even when he’s not transcribing Scots for us Sassenachs.

  4. [de]barked oak-snag (in snag‘s original literal sense of branch).

  5. BTW, we’re not allowed to have tumblr sites as our URLs? The error terms it “questionable content”.
    Sorry about that; I must once have had an infestation of spam using tumblr links and banned them in irritation. I’ve removed tumblr from the MT-Blacklist, so you can now use it freely.
    Nonetheless, writers have produced an enormous variety of spellings and forms … and I don’t really see the point of filling up dictionaries with them.
    I entirely agree, and I think I’ve mentioned this before in connection with the OED (which seems to have changed its policy in the last century, as the Century no doubt would have had it not suffered untimely extinction).

  6. and I don’t really see the point of filling up dictionaries with them.

    Could it perhaps have been chosen as a trap word/Mountweazel?

  7. It’s never been the OED’s policy to list everything; words in the EDD aren’t generally included unless they have standard senses as well, for example. Similarly, the DSL doesn’t list words that are the same in form and meaning as English words (which means that it can’t be the source of a Scots spellchecker, unfortunate as that is).

  8. Interesting. I’ve always been interested in the OED’s inclusion criteria- do they publish such things?

  9. Not really on point but I hope it’ll amuse you: do you know of the old alba rose, pale pink and deeply imbricated, called Great Maiden’s Blush, also known (inter alia) as Cuisse de Nymphe, or if a little more heated in color Cuisse de Nymphe Emue? So ladies’ thighs turn up in more than one place in the garden.

  10. Kishnevi: Old English long a became long mid o in Middle English and was raised by the Great Vowel Shift to the GOAT vowel, hence ác > oak. But in Scots this did not happen, and instead the long a was changed by the Great Vowel Shift (which affected Scots tense vowels as well as English ones) to the current FACE vowel, typically [e], and the spelling aik.
    Long u was not affected by the Scots GVS, which is why when the Scotsman in America is taken to the zoo to see the moose, he remarks, “If that’s yer moose, I dinnae want to see yer rats!”

  11. Trond Engen says

    Incidentally bringing it close to Norwegian eik. Also Eng. goat ~ No. geit. But boat ~ No. båt from ON bátr. Is it Scots bait, then?

  12. Over the weekend, the Karambolage program on arte TV was explaining Maggiwürze, or simply Maggi, to the French audience. Maggi is a German “taste enhancer” for soups etc., a bottle of which used to be found in most German households and probably still is – sort of like Worchestershire sauce. It is dark brown and moderately revolting in taste – like concentrate of lovage leaf. It was invented by Herr Maggi at the end of the 19th century as an aid to overworked housewives, along with soup cubes etc. It or something similar was used for a while in France (I sort of missed this part of the program, because I was dozing in bed with a cold) under the name corrige-madame. This frequent French construction (as in croque-monsieur etc) may have influenced “queez-madam” in some way or other, but I don’t know what.

  13. I mean “queez-madam” may have been constructed in line with whatever moves the French to create hyphenated expressions such as corrige-madame, croque-monsieur, lèse-majesté.

  14. Well, I only just now noticed the cuisse-madame item in the post. So it’s just another risqué French term to conjure with: “Eye of toad, Leg of bat, Pear of thigh, Tail of cat”.

  15. Is it Scots bait, then?
    They use the Standard English form boat, but apparently there was a (dialectal?) form bait until about a century ago.

  16. marie-lucie says

    Grumbly: “queez-madam” may have been constructed in line with whatever moves the French to create hyphenated expressions such as corrige-madame, croque-monsieur, lèse-majesté.
    I have never heard of corrige-madame or corrige-anything, although there was (perhaps still is) a culinary product called Maggi (I was too young to pay attention to what it was).
    Cuisse-madame, a compound of noun+noun, is not at all the same formation as lèse-majesté which is made up of verb+noun (a very frequent compound type in French). Noun+noun is an older type of compound; in more recent ones there is a preposition between the two.
    Sashura: gaufrets
    I only know une gaufre “a waffle” and une gaufrette, a type of very thin cookie such as the things you are given with your ice-cream if you order it in a dish rather than a cone, in a fancy ice-cream parlour (what ice-cream cones are made of seems to be a type of gaufrette) . Another type of gaufrette is made of several layers separated by some jam-like stuff, and is roughly the size and width of a not too big finger. I think I have seen the word gaufret in English, which I assumed to be the same as gaufrette. A French word “gaufret” would have to be something small, perhaps intermediate in size between the large gaufre and the much smaller gaufrette.

  17. marie-lucie says

    I think that I got two comments about food mixed up. The waffle, etc comment belongs in the other thread.

  18. marie-lucie, I now find that corrige-madame came from a subsequent part of the same Karamobolage installment. Maggi has the nickname corrige madame in Senegal !

    Vous ne savez-pas que le cube Maggi est incontournable dans la cuisine africaine ? Qu’il entre dans la composition de nombreux plats, qu’il s’agisse du “ndolé” camerounais, de “la sauce graine” ivoirienne ou du “tiebboudienne” sénégalais ! Au Sénégal, on a même donné un surnom populaire à l’arôme Maggi : on l’appelle le “corrige Madame”.

    HERE is a link to the Karambolage installment that is good for another few days. It wouldn’t display in Firefox under XP, I had to use Internet Explorer.

  19. By the way, that transcript from Karambolage is not my work. I am not responsible for the hyphen in “Vous ne savez-pas que …”.
    If it’s not a typo, it may have been added for reasons similar to those which occasionally move English speakers to add apostrophe’s for no good reason. In the latter case, people have a vague memory of “correct prose” having apostrophes and constructions they are not used to – so, in order to obtain a superior result, they add apostrophes here and there, and expressions like “in the view of he and I”.
    I try not to feel smug and superior when ordinary people do that. They have after all recognized that a different register is required and are doing what they can to play along. It’s usually only people who should be better than they are pretending to be – policitians, for instance – that excite my scorn.

  20. “Politicians” – misspeling dont’ count.

  21. Maggi has the nickname corrige madame in Senegal !
    I knew Maggi sounded familiar; it was on every table at the Senegalese restaurants I ate at in NYC.

  22. Are you pulling legs, severally and jointly ?? For a change, I wasn’t.

  23. It’s already hard enough for me to believe that Maggi “juice” – what I would call the quintessentially chemical condiment in Germany, if I had to call it anything – are incontournable dans la cuisine africaine, along with Maggi soup cubes.
    I saw part of a documentary on German TV this year about the plight of fisherman in certain African countries (I forget which). They aren’t able to sell their fish to local markets, because the markets import fish from European organizations (!) and sell it at much lower prices. Where are the imported fish caught ? Off the coasts of those countries.

  24. Are you pulling legs, severally and jointly ??
    Not at all. I love Senegalese food (I just wish fish weren’t such a primary constituent of the cuisine), and I made a point of checking out such eateries (of which there are a fair number in NYC).

  25. Lamb mafé! Chicken yassa! Now I’m hungry…

  26. It’s postcolonial: a standard appetizer is nems (nem rán).

  27. This appears among the ingredients of a Chicken yassa recipe at “congocookbook.com”:

    one or two tablespoons Arome Maggi® sauce (or Maggi® cubes and water), or soy sauce (optional)

    It was hard enough to believe that the Elders of Zion wanted to take over the world … but the Maggi Board of Directors !? On the other hand, the directors have a commercial motive, and stockholders to watch over them. I’ve forgotten what motives the Elders were supposed to have had. The WiPe article gives a wishy-washy resumé:

    The Protocols purports to document the minutes of a late 19th century meeting attended by world Jewish leaders conspiring to take over the world; it describes their plans to subvert the morals of the non-Jewish world, to control the world’s economies, to control the press, and—ultimately—to take over the world.

    I mean, come on, how silly can you get ? When morals are subverted, cash flow is guaranteed and the press is muzzled, you already have the world in the palm of your hand – like a Maggi soup cube. No extra work is required, apart from adding water.

  28. Grumbly, I’m interested to know how you would recognise the smell of lovage. I think I only know of it through Wally Shawn’s play. Is it a Texas item? Is it worth growing?

  29. Lovage leaves smell/taste like walnut creme airbrushed with the best mustard. I first encountered Liebstöckel in Germany in the ’90s, when it briefly came into fashion. Another word for it is Maggikraut (Maggi herb), because Maggi has a similar taste, but contains no lovage. It is great in salads.
    From the WiPe on lovage, I deduce that it shouldn’t be that hard to grow in a winter garden. The folk etymology is “love-ache”, where “ache” is a “medieval name for parsley” (?). This tip from the article also sounds interesting:

    In the UK, lovage cordial was traditionally mixed with brandy in the ratio of 2:1 as a winter drink.

    That sentence is a bit strange, though. There was nothing previously in the article about “lovage cordial”. On the assumption that the cordial is a diluted form of lovage, then 2:1 brandy:cordial sounds reasonable for a winter drink. On the other hand, if the “cordial” is exactly the 2:1 mixture of brandy and lovage, then that seems rather heavy on the love-ache.
    Lovage is hard to get now – haven’t seen it for years. It has no resemblance to those bags of “lovage seed” you can get in Indian shops. On the bag appears the Hindi name “ajwain” as well, which according to the internet is “carom seed” or “Bishop’s weed”.
    And now I am off to catch a chicken, so’s I can make chicken yassa.

  30. Thanks. They have Maggi brand products here. I had thought they were chicken stock. I’ll look out for the original one. I like the sound of walnut creme airbrushed with mustard. Have you ever thought of being a food writer?

  31. Chicken yassa looks good, by the way.

  32. Have you ever thought of being a food writer?
    Perish the thought ! That’s so derivative. My motto is: “Do it better, or zip up”. I can’t cook. As Gertrude said to Ernest: “Hemingway, remarks are not literature”.
    Of course my motto leaves room for mockery, which does not by itself involve a claim to be able to do something better. It’s only when I think someone is producing hot-air thoughts that I rev up the ol’ wind channel.

  33. “ache” is a “medieval name for parsley” (?)
    That really is where the similar-looking word smallage comes from.

  34. I now know where the Maggi products are shelved in the supermarket. Oh, the shame of it ! But when in Senegal, eh ?
    All of the products contained glutamate, and the ingredient list of almost all of them began with “salt, glutamate …”. The other lists began with “glutamate, salt, …”.

  35. I can now vouch for poulet yassa. But, folks, do be sure not to floorboard the mustard – I nearly overdid it. Of course I used medium-strength Löwensenf, not that girly Dijon moutarde called for in the recipe.

  36. Geez, I dunno, Stu. German Wiki sez (among many other things):
    “Nach Dijon-Verfahren hergestellt ist auch der Düsseldorfer Löwensenf.”

  37. Hmpf. The brand of moutarde de Dijon people buy here is brownish in color, has seeds still in it and so is mildly seedy. Sort of like how highschool math teachers looked in the older novelistic tradition, before they became snappy and stimulating in the newer one.
    As I now know, starting from your link and consulting other sites, the “Dijon fabrication process” used for “Dijon mustards” and Löwensenf is more elaborate than others, and supposedly yields a snappier product. I saw a French documentary about a small, family-owned Dijon mustard factory a few months ago. All the math teachers working there on their vacations wore bowties.
    The last sentence is “trivially” true in the model shown. That’s one of the hardest things for people to grasp when learning logic, I have found. Even when they have understood it, they don’t trust it. It’s as if they can’t distinguish between propositions and politicians.

  38. That may be due in part to the recent scandals in which politicians were caught propositioning minors over the internet. It was bound to diminish their rank. (Corny math joke, see matrix theory)

  39. Develey Senf & Feinkost is a great name for a mustard company. I’m sure bayrischer Senf is very develey.

  40. Even when they have understood it, they don’t trust it.
    I was brought up never to trust a maths professor working in a mustard factory wearing a bow-tie. Or indeed any clothing.

  41. As is horseradish (Meerrettich) . Over the weekend I snapped up a horseradish root at a store I had never noticed before. I can’t wait to use it.

  42. The root was wrapped in cellophane. I don’t suppose math professors wrapped in cellophane would be any more trustworthy.

  43. No more than programmers packaged in polystyrene.

  44. Actually Grumbly, *none* of the math teachers working there on their vacations wore bowties.
    (I side with common-or-garden intuition – a herb almost but not quite entirely unlike parsley – when it comes to arguments from the empty set, outside of their native context.)

  45. But des,
    A. all of the math teachers working there on their vacations wore bowties
    B. none of the math teachers working there on their vacations wore bowties
    are both true in the situation shown in the TV documentary.
    For other readers, let me show how the truth of A. and B. can be seen by counterargument. Let’s take des’ B. statement. If B. were false, then there would have to be at least one math teacher in the situation shown in the TV documentary who wore a bowtie. But there is no such math teacher, because there are no math teachers at all in the situation shown in the TV documentary. We have found that the assumption that B. is false leads to a contradiction, so B. must be true in the situation shown in the TV documentary.
    Both A. and B. will confuse people unacquainted with mathematical logic, because they assume that when statements about math teachers are made, then there must be math teachers around. Even as I write, workers are boarding up my front windows against the tsunami of intuitive, gut-level arguments about the meaning/sense of A. and B. that I fully expect to hit this thread now.
    The above model-theoretic way of dealing with A. and B. is more general than the dried-parsley approach. That is, the World of Intuitionism is also a model, aka what the transactional analysts call a “script”. Model theory can thus account for itself as well as for Intuitionism, and coexist with the latter. However, Intuitionism cannot give even an account of itself (thus the name “intuitionism”, i.e. not in the realm of accountability !), much less an account of model theory, but can only cast the latter into outer darkness as being “wrong-headed”.
    Am I to understand that you live where you do because of proximity to the shade of Brouwer ? Haven’t we scuffled once before on some issue related to intuitionism ?

  46. For completeness, I am adding the demonstration that
    A. all of the math teachers working there on their vacations wore bowties
    is true in the situation shown in the TV documentary, where there were no math teachers at all (i.e in the factory) .
    If A. were false, then there would have to be at least one math teacher in the situation shown in the TV documentary who wore no bowtie. But there is no such math teacher, because there are no math teachers at all in the situation shown in the TV documentary. We have found that the assumption that A. is false leads to a contradiction, so A. must be true in the situation shown in the TV documentary.

  47. I just don’t think that set and/or model theory are entitled to any priority outside their scholarly contexts. I can do maths just fine, but I like to think I can also tell when I’m not.
    I also don’t particularly admire versions of philosophy that aspire to the condition of mathematics, which certainly makes my current geographical situation very slightly more congenial than the old one.
    Is it really true that the semantics of intuitionist logics can’t be formalised, though? (Arguments from the name carrying as much weight as they deserve, of course.) I would find that surprising, considering how often I hear formalism-minded people talking about them. (Usually in the context of the Curry-Howard isomorphism, since you ask.)

  48. in the context of the Curry-Howard isomorphism
    Curry is several threads up. This is the mustard thread.

  49. You put enough Maggi “seasoning” on (it’s provided in the canteen here for the soup. I ignore it, although I sometimes use the tabasco) and all these threads taste the same.

  50. Let’s all try to picture Stu sporting a little bow tie bestreut mit symbols like ∀ and ∃ and ∅.
    I once worked in a French vineyard for a week, as a math student on vacation. By “vacation” I do not mean that I was a member of the empty set.

  51. I too used to believe that universal statements were true of the empty set, but then I ran into a real philosopher who showed me the error of my ways. Oddly, my father probably could have done the same, but somehow he missed the opportunity.
    In unrestricted quantification, it is true that “For all x, if x is a math teacher, then x wears a bow tie” is true even when there are no math teachers, for the math-teacher predicate is inside the conditional. The if-then conditional is logically equivalent to not-or, and references inside negations assert nothing.
    But the restrictively quantified statement “For all math teachers x, x wears a bowtie” is flatly false when there are no math teachers (or purple rhinoceroses, the example of choice in my day).
    The conflation of these two cases is an instance of how mathematicians make a hash of logic. Similarly (and this is an example my father did tell me about), mathematical logicians assume that a command like “You shall not kill” is equivalent to “Either you will not kill, or you will be punished.” Nonsense. People living in society are not given a choice of killing or being punished, they are forbidden to kill (and if they do, they are punished).

  52. John,
    Please discuss your theory as it applies to the expressions:
    (A)”for every x, if x is a math teacher appearing in the documentary then x wears a bowtie”
    (B)”for every math teacher x, if x appears in the documentary then x wears a bowtie”
    (C)”for every person x appearing in the documentary, if x is a math teacher then x wears a bowtie”
    (D)”for every math teacher appearing in the documentary, x wears a bowtie”

  53. Assuming there actually are no math teachers in the documentary:
    A is vacuously true because of its unrestricted quantification.
    B and C are vacuously true as well; there is restricted quantification, but not over the relevant set.
    D is presuppositionally false: there are no math teachers in the documentary to wear bowties.
    For “references inside negations” above, read “statements inside negations”.

  54. John, the no purple rhinoceroses,did they wear bowties?

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