Food for Language

That’s right — it’s also food for thought about the inclusiveness of the English language:

Napoleon famously dismissed the British as a nation of shopkeepers, but into those shops he despised came goods from all over the world. Butterfield [author of Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare] says, “Nowadays the British are more a nation of foodies (a word coined in 1982) than shopkeepers, and this shows up in the lashings (Anglo-Irish, 1829) of words the food and drink industry feeds into the language. So eclectic have we become in our eating habits, that a trip to the deli (originally US, from German, 1954) or the supermarket (US, 1933) could easily involve borrowing from well over twenty languages, not counting French, from which in any case so many of our food words come.

  • Dutch, gherkin
  • Greek, pitta
  • Arabic, couscous
  • Tamil, curry
  • Urdu, tandoori
  • Hindi, chutney
  • Persian, aubergine
  • Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs), tomato
  • Narragansett, squash
  • Taino (a Caribbean language), potato [from The Book Depository Newsletter, December 2008]