15 June 2013

Who puts the Cheddar in Cheddar Cheese?

Gorge Cheese Co
only producer of 'cheddar' actually based in Cheddar
In the Consice OED, Cheddar is defined as a kind of cheese, firm and smooth, yellow, white, or orange, and originally made in Cheddar in South-Western England.

Cheddar cheese gets its name from the village of Cheddar in Somerset - where it was originally produced around the 12th century.

The comercial use of the word Cheddar is not restricted by any commercial law. That's why we may easily come across some cheese tagged "Cheddar" in a supermarket even if it's not genuinely produced in Cheddar.

The same isn't truth about the word Cornish, as used in Cornish pasty.

Pasty Shop outside London Victoria Station
Cornish is an adjective relating to Cornwall; Cornish pasty designates “a pasty containing seasoned meat and vegetables, especially potato” (Concise OED). Despite the name, Cornish pasty doesn’t have to be produced in Cornwall. But if a Cornish Pasty is stamped with a PGI or a PDO badge of honour, it means that the Cornish pasty really comes from Cornwall.

PGI and PDO are labels legally created by the bureaucrats in Brussels to protect heritage food across Europe. PDO, protected designation of origin, means that the food was produced and processed and in a particular area – Cornwall, for example. PGI, protected geographical indication, means only that the food was assembled there (Rip Off Food, BBC ONE, aired in 29 Oct 2012).

That's when the strangeness starts, as I see. We call cheddar a cheese that actually mayn't come from Cheddar, and we call cornish a pasty that actually mayn't come from Cornwal. So, the words we use to name things doesn't really obey a strict logic, unless one advocates that cheddar and cornish means 'in the style of'. Then, we are actually bending the meaning the words according to our convenience.

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding: from BBC Food Recipes
And don't get me started with Yorkshire Pudding!

6 June 2013

Don't mention the privates.

Basil Tower: funny Hitler walk

 The title makes a reference to the expression "Don't mention the war"
said by John Cleese/ Basil Fawlty in the episode
The Germans from Fawlty Towers.

No subject is more fertile for linguistic strangeness than when speakers talk about their privates.

A certain embarrassment or rudeness about uttering the words penis or vagina compels speakers to be linguistically creative - and weird - to disguise the subject.

Once I challenged a lad from Doncaster to guess the meaning of a few ‘gay’ words I’d learnt watching Will & Grace. In return he challenged me to guess the meaning of a few words he knew.

“One eyed bed fairy. ’umpton. Tally wacker. Bald Avenger. Widgy. Todger. Doofer. Shaft.”

“What?” I said confused.

“’ow ’bout…” He continued, “Sixpence. Fluzie. Minge. Muff. Fanny. Beaver. Snatch.”

He explained that such terms referred to the male and female genitalia.

I thought I’d learned all, but then I realised that such list of words are infinite. Probably because, with time, people become familiarised with terms as such, and so to keep subject disguised, speakers tend to create new terms.

Recently, I learned a few new terms as I watched The Wright Way on BBC 1.

The terms were uttered by the character Victoria who, in her words, “took an embarrassing rudy selfie.”

Selfie is already a brand new word. Rudy selfie, as I understand, is an euphemistic way of saying ‘picture of your lower body’.

Victoria clarifies ‘how rude’ her rudy selfie is: "I took a pic of my... Fanwa.”

Victoria is a DJ and, after having gained a Facebook fan page for her anwa, she becomes known as ‘DJ Vee-Jay-Jay’.

Vee-Jay-Jay seems to have been popularised in Greys Anatomy, and is a common word nowadays.

The linguistic creativity doesn’t stop at the level of the common noun. It’s common for people to name their lower parts with proper nouns.

This week’s Sweat the Small Stuff (series 1, ep. 6) on BBC 3 presented examples of how people nickname their ‘downstairs pal’.

Some names borrow from the owner's name. A guest suggested, for instance, that Tulisa should call hers Tulipsa. A particular man, whose name is Yasin, called his Yas. Unlike Yas, other nicknames mentioned - Carlito, Hercules, Minky - are unrelated to the owners’. A lady - name Claire - called hers Minnie Moo, a lad - name Brad - called his Bobby. This also seems to be the case of Jerry - nickname given by fans to Justin Bieber’s.

Whatever the reason - be it for jocosity, politeness, or intimacy – the varied terms with which people refer to privates make of the subject an everlasting spring of words for English.