Friday, October 27, 2006

TRJ: Smorgasbord

Totat Request Jive, or TRJ for short, is a weekly Friday feature where you the WordHumper reader decide which lucky word gets humped back to the stoneage (or at least to Proto-Indo-Europa). Today's word comes from CH (again, c'mon people--we need more entries) in Brooklyn who writes:
I have a TRJ for you, "smorgasboard"...saw it on the Weather Channel this morning and I thought I'd mention it.
An excellent choice, from Brooklyn. Smorgasbord, smörgåsbord in Swedish (I wish English would leave in umlaut and ring diacritics. They make words much more interesting to look at.), describes a sort of buffet; or, more generically, a varied collection of anything. Smörgås on its own is a slice of bread with butter. The word smör comes to us from Old Norse and means butter; it's a cognate of our English noun smear. Gås is a Swedish dialectal word meaning "lump of butter" and if from the Old Norse gās, goose. Gās gave English its word for a young goose, gosling. Bord, also from Old Norse, is a table and is a cognate of our word board. Der.

Okay, I know your next question--why do the Swedes use the same word for goose and lump of butter? I did some research and found a few theories, all listed on the American Dialectal Society mailing list, circa July 2001.
...the etymology of the word is not 100% certain,
but apparently it was first used to describe the butter clumps that (as geese) float on the butter milk when one churns butter.
The origin of gås is indeed goose, but smörgås is to be interpreted as goose fat used as a spread ("smear") for bread. Today, of course, the spread is likely not to be goose fat but dairy-based...
I was always under the impression that the word smörgås was meant to mean "butter goose," in which the open-faced sandwich looks like a goose because the toppings are piled so high. So I'm speculating that it has less to do with goose fat than with a goose shape.
The goose-fat theory seems the most credible to me; afterall the Swedes eat some nasty stuff. Seriously, have you ever been to a country that has as many foods available in tube-form? Gross.

If you have a word you'd like humped because you're either too lazy or inept to do it yourself please email it, along with your location, to wordhumper. And in case you missed the TRJ from two weeks ago check out Hallucinations. See you Monday!

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:: posted by David, 8:18 AM


Good Swedish Chef still. I like the moose. Also funny would have been the lobster bandito ones. That makes me laugh every time. Hell, I'm laughing now!
Blogger Loocite, at 10:15 AM  

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