Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Liquid Lesson

Not a cookery or brewing lesson but one looking at why various liquids, and not just drinks, are known by the names we use virtually every day.

Alcohol comes from the Arabic al-kuhul, this the fine metallic powder used to darken eyelids, for kahala means 'to stain, paint'. Not that the two things at all similar, other than in the method of production - sublimation.

Beer has been said to be a major factor in creating civilsation - it is argued that our ancestors were forced to settle temporarily to produce beer for drinking, a reasonable alternative to potentially bad water. Be that true or no there is no doubt beer has been drunk for thousands of years, as seen in the many seemingly diverse languages which speak of the drink using quite similar words. The English 'beer' is related to the Latin biber meaning 'to drink' which has given us the word 'imbibe'.

Blood is another word which has remained largely unchanged for millennia, the term seen in the ancient Proto-Indo-European bhlo-to which was also used to mean 'to swell, gush, spurt'. It takes little imagination to realise just how blood was most often viewed in those far-off days.

Broth is a Germanic word, seen in Old High German brod and its root bhreue meaning 'boil, bubble'. Here we see how 'broth', a liquid from cooking, and 'brew', the act of producing beer, are related and have a common root as the two use the same process.

Diesel comes directly from Rudolph Diesel, the German engineer who designed the diesel engine. The surname is a pet form of Mathias (or Matthew) and is from the Hebrew for 'Gift of God'.

Emulsion came to English from the French and earlier from Latin emulgere or 'to milk out'. Milk is the best example of an emulsion, that is drops of one liquid dispersed in another.

Gasoline uses the chemical suffix 'ine' after 'ol' (understood as representing 'oil') and 'gas'. Here the use of 'gas' is taken from 'gas' as both are fuels. Incidentally 'gas' is from the Greek khaos meaning 'empty space' and has the same origin as 'chaos'.

Gravy is an Anglo-French corruption of the Old French grave, itself from grane meaning both 'sauce' and 'stew'. Earlier this is seen as Latin granum, 'grain, seed'.

Honey is a Germanic term and originated as Proto-Indo-European keneko simply meaning 'yellow' or 'golden'.

Ink came to English from Old French encre which described the same thing. Taking it further back we find Greek enkauston from enkaiein meaning 'to burn' and related to 'caustic'. Here we need a history lesson, for this was also used to refer to a kind of painting produced using fire or heat. Later it was transferred to a purple-red ink used by Roman emperors and produced by heating the ground remains of certain shellfish - note the Code of Justinian prohibited common folk from making this ink on pain of death.

Juice, in its simplest form, refers to any flavoured liquid. Going back to Proto-Indo-European yeue it meant 'to blend, mix food' and from this came Sanskrit yus 'broth' and Lithuanian juse 'fish soup' among others.

Kerosene uses the chemical suffix 'ene' following a word derived from the Greek keros or 'wax'. The link here is that both contain paraffin.

Milk may be a noun but it is also a verb, indeed it is the action of milking which has given the product its name. Tracing this back to Proto-Indo-European we discover this has hardly changed since melg meant 'to stroke, wipe, rub off'.

Molasses has been adopted into English in the plural form, although this is seen as singular. This came to English from Portuguese melaco from Latin mellaceum or 'new wine' and ultimately from mellaceus or 'resembling honey'.

Oil is a comparatively late word for substances with a certain texture. Indeed olive oil must have been known since prehistory, although we have no idea what these ancestors knew the product as. The modern oil takes the name of possibly the earliest produced oil, that being olive oil and named for the olive. Ironically substances with this greasy or viscous texture are named from the early olive oil, itself derived from the olive which had the original meaning of 'oil' and has thus turned full circle.

Paint as a noun comes from the verb. This term came from French and Latin, both from the Proto-Indo-European root peig meaning 'to cut'. Hence first used to mean 'decorate' (pots, for example) the term now means the substance with which we most often decorate our homes.

Sauce originates from the Latin salsa, literally 'that which is salted'.

Syrup is from the Old French sirop 'sugared drink' and ultimately from Arabic sharab 'beverage, wine'.

Turpentine was first derived from the terebinth tree, hence its name, although now applied to that obtained from conifers. Terebinth trees are native to the Mediterranean, the name coming from Greek but here the etymological trail dries up and can only have been an early loan word from a non-Indo-European language.

Varnish began as a noun, this from Latin vernix meaning 'odorous resin'. Here the trail becomes unclear but it could well be derived from the Greek Berenike, the ancient Libyan city today known as Bengasi as this is where varnish is said to have been first used. This town is named after Berenike II, queen of Egypt whose name is now seen as Berenice.

No comments:

Post a Comment