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Mar 20, 2009 09:29 AM

It's a language thing...

A few of us were inspired by the "It's a texture thing" thread to consider whether the names of things influence how you perceive/react to the thing itself.

I gave the example of "potato," which is such a darn cute, plump, soothing word, as compared to "urchin," which sounds like retching. Someone else mentioned "kreplach," heh. Etc.


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  1. Personally, I think Kartoffelpuffer sounds more appealing than potato pancake, though I'm not a big fan of "either."

    1. I realize "pu pu" means snack (or something like that), but always found the pu pu platter to be a silly-sounding food item...especially as a young'un back in the 70s when we actually ate them.

      George Carlin had that bit about eggplant. (is it an egg or a plant?). Funny name when you think about it.

      As a non-eel lover, I think EEL is a perfect word for both how loathsome I find these creatures and how nasty they feel in my mouth. EEL...close to EUUUUW!

      9 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        "George Carlin had that bit about eggplant. (is it an egg or a plant?)"

        No, it's an aubergine (which is great word).

          1. re: kattyeyes

            I'm a man who sees the world in 16 Crayola colours. That car is purple... aubergine is a vegetable, not a colour. (Pet peeve. Aubergines come in MANY colours.)

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Not to taunt you--I just like to SAY aubergine. As Harters said, it's a great word. So rich and smacks of luxury. I like periwinkle, too, but not to eat and not on a car. I hear you--aubergines aren't only purple.

              1. re: kattyeyes

                The "eggplant" name comes from the small ovoid white ones.

                1. re: greygarious

                  AHA, and never having eaten those kind most of my life, I always thought "eggplant" was a pretty ridiculous word. But I get it now.

                  We always had the large, purple ones. My mom is a huge eggplant lover and has made eggplant parm all my life. She has it down to a science...even an oven-baked method!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Please share! I just found some great eggplant and would like to make some oven baked eggplant parm.

                    1. re: TampaAurora

                      Here you go. I posted it on Home Cooking for ya:


                  2. re: greygarious

                    Anybody interested the Sinaloa style Stuffed Eggplant recipe in "Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana" is incredibly good... and the eggplant-apple stuffing works well with the little Thai Eggplants that are now easy to find at Whole Foods & many farmer's markets.

        1. Ratatouille sounds awfully expectorative to me. A lot of German food words can sound harsh to an American ear - schnitzel, for example, or frikadelle.

          Pudding, on the other hand, is very cozy. I'd like to snuggle into a nice warm pudding by the fire.

          24 Replies
          1. re: BobB

            Frikadelle sounds like an expletive...what the frikadelle was that?! ;)

            1. re: kattyeyes

              That was my dinner, along with mashed potato and creamed spinach!

              1. re: kattyeyes

                You mean like ~
                Yo - yu mudders a frikadelle, so dare!!!

              2. re: BobB

                I can't hear the word "pudding" without having visions of Bill Cosby...

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Whereas for me, it conjures up the line "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."

                  I have to agree with BobB - "pudding" is a warm, squishy word.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky...

                    Cosby was pimping Jell-O before Syd Barret got fat and shaved his eyebrows. Maybe the Coz could have done the voiceover: HOOOw can you have your JELL-O brand PUD-ding if you DON't eat your mEEEEt? (Excuse the poor attempt at transcribing his weird enunciation.) Or maybe not. Having Toni Tennille sing backup was a bad enough idea.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      LOL! Good translation!

                      And what did Toni Tennille sing backup on? Not ABITW?

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Most of the stuff she recorded for "The Wall" got scrapped. There's a bit of her in "Goodbye Blue Sky." And I think it's her voice saying "Roger, Caroline's on the phone" on "Empty Spaces."

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Ahh - OK - on the album...not that particular song.

                          And that is just a weird combo - PF and Tennille?

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            I never heard that before!
                            How odd!

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              It's in the liner notes. They're what I read instead of whatever I was supposed to be working on in college.

                  2. re: BobB

                    Bob, don't know if your first and second sentences are connected or just stream of consciousness, but for the record, ratatouille is French.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Just stream of consciousness. I speak German (used to live there) and a bit of French and know the roots.

                    2. re: BobB

                      Funny, while I too find most German harsh sounding, some of the food words charm. Linguafood mentioned one, another is hassenpfeffer, although that may have as much to do with Bugs Bunny memories.

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        how 'bout plunderkuchen? maultaschen? pampelmuse? the latter one of my favorite German food words -- it means grapefruit. German can sound pretty nice. We do have great poetry.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Yesss! Didn't know it was so similar in German. Pamplemousse is one of my favorite mots en francais! ;)

                      2. re: BobB

                        Maybe it's the dialect I learned, but I do not find that German food words sound harsh, though sometimes punctuated. You can hear the crispy coating as you say Frikadelle. But in general the word is cradled in the hollow on top of the tongue. Even saying "wurst" properly gets your lips pursed a little to accept the sausage between them.

                        1. re: BobB

                          I'm not quite the fan of Frikadelle either. Which is why I call them Fleischpflanzerl. Fleischküchle, however, sound rather revolting. And why serve Hähnchen when you can dine on far more melifluous Hendl?

                          1. re: JungMann

                            I take it you get your Senf down out of the Chuchichastli. Odd that though I lived in "la Suisse romande" but had to learn Hochdeutsch at school, so that when I went to Zuerich I couldn't communicate at ALL.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Actually I find Schwyzerdütsch completely unintelligible. I learned Hochdeutsch but because I have now a largely Bavaro-Austrian set of friends, I tend to use their German terms. The neutral Swiss, however, have yet to force their Rösti down my throat.

                              1. re: JungMann

                                Ditto here, I learned Hochdeutsch in Hamburg and find it hard to understand anyone who was born south of Bonn.

                          2. re: BobB

                            You want "harsh," try Dutch or Arabic.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              I agree about Dutch (my heritage)- the language is difficult. Doesn't mean I don't get all worked up at the idea of a stroopwafel... which they have at trader joe's by the way

                              1. re: CoryKatherine

                                But you have continued the tradition of Secretaries-General of the United Nations with awesome names: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is an awesome name, and not one in a thousand Americans can pronounce it. (I'm one of the 0.1% who can.)

                          3. Nu? What's wrong with Kreplach?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: MoxieBoy

                              No, personally, I think that's a great word. Ditto schmaltz—and you bet I'll eat it too.

                              1. re: MoxieBoy

                                It's the way the "ch" is pronounced, as though clearing one's throat. Like Billy Crystal's characterization of Yiddish as a combination of German and phlegm. ;-)

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  but that's the definition of dutch '-D

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    I have a British friend who likes to say that Dutch is not a language, it's a throat disease. But he's monolingual, what does he know? ;-)

                                    Actually, Yiddish is no more gutteral than many regional variants of German itself.

                                    The back-of-the-throat "ch" doesn't bother me as such, I went to Hebrew school so it's part of my standard phoneme lineup, but the combination of that with "krep" in kreplach is almost comically nasty. It echoes of crap, crepuscular, and cripple - and the singular of kreplach is krepl, which even on its own isn't very nice.

                                    1. re: BobB

                                      I often travel to Belgium where they speak Dutch. But they call the local dialect Flemish, of course. But it should be Plegmish.

                              2. I think my favorite word (in English anyway) is "lunch" -- actually, I think I'm still waiting to eat a lunch that lives up to how good it sounds.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: mselectra

                                  Mmm, munch a bunch of crunchy lunch! Any discussion of lunch always reminds me of that bit from The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

                                  "The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question, How can we eat? the second by the question, Why do we eat? and the third by the question, Where shall we have lunch?"

                                  1. re: BobB

                                    Thanks for that! I'd forgotten that quotation, how much I loved it back when I read it, too. I'm looking to Chowhound to boost my spirits today, and Hitchhiker's Guide is perfect!

                                    And it's past lunchtime now, isn't it? Better figure out what I'm having.

                                    1. re: mselectra

                                      Which in turn reminds me of that Deep Thought, forgive me for paraphrasing poorly as I can't find it online—something like: "Sometimes I think about all the misery in the world and I want to cry. But then I think, Aw, who cares? And then I think, What's for dinner?"

                                          1. re: BobB

                                            Say, speaking of "It's a Language Thing," I was talking about Pooh Bear.


                                            1. re: yayadave

                                              I know. I reserve the right to willfully misinterpret anything for the purpose of getting a smile.