• Etymons

    Corned Beef and Corning

    The corn in the phrase corned beef refers to salt-curing, or brining beef to preserve it. The corn refers to the large grains of salt used in curing the beef. The meat is placed in a crock and liberally covered with large grains (or corns) of salt. Etymologically, the English word corn comes from the Germanic root kurnam, used to refer to small seeds or kernals, cognate with kernal and with Latin grain. Corned beef, traditionally made with a brisket of beef in Eastern European and Jewish traditions, is fairly simple to do at home. Here’s a recipe from Alton Brown for making your own corned beef. Buy me a…

  • Etymons

    Penguin

    There’s universal agreement today that a penguin is: Any of various stout, flightless aquatic birds of the family Spheniscidae, of the Southern Hemisphere, having flipperlike wings and webbed feet adapted for swimming and diving, short scalelike feathers, and white underparts with a dark back (AHD). It’s possible that penguin is of Welsh origin; it breaks down very neatly into pen + gwen/gwyn, with pen meaning “head,” and gwen meaning “white,” (and there are species of penguin with white heads). However, the etymology isn’t at all certain. The OED offers two early quotations in context: 1577 F. FLETCHER Log of ‘Golden Hind’ 24 Aug. in N. M. Penzer World Encompassed (1971)…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    March from the Très Riches Heures

    In this book of hours calendar image for March from the Trés Riches Heures of Jean Duc du Berry (Musé Condee MS 65 F3v), the foreground shows a man ploughing with an ox. It’s a common motif in terms of the labors of the months in books of hours. The labors of March typically involve pruning trees or grape vines, or digging or ploughing in non-wine producing regions. In the foreground, a peasant, wearing leggings and a hat, plows with an ox. Above that, to the left, three peasants are working with the vines, probably pruning and re-tying them. Above and two the right, a peasant with a sack is…