Friday, February 09, 2007

The Daily Hump: Venison

In yesterday's hump commenter Auntie Sarah pondered why the meat that we eat doesn't often share a name with the animal that it came from: examples being cow-->beef, pig-->pork and deer-->venison. Beef and pork are direct decendants of the Latin names for these animals, so the name change does not reflect another instance of the hunting taboo described in the last post. Venison is a bit more interesting, however.

Venison, too, comes from Latin, but does not follow the beef/pork pattern because venison's root had nothing to do with deer. Rather, venison is from the past participle of the Latin verb venari, meaning to hunt or pursue. When English first took the word from the Old French back at the end of the 13th c., venison actual referred to the flesh of any animal killed in a hunt. It's only in later centuries that the definition became restricted to deer meat.

The Latin venari is likely from the Proto-Indo-European base *wen-, which has been translated as "to strive after, wish, desire, be satisfied." This also happens to form the base for that goddess on a mountain top burning like a silver flame, on the summit of beauty and love; I believe Venus was her name.

Shocking Blue [Wikipedia]
venison [Online Etymology Dictionary]
Venus [Online Etymology Dictionary]
venison [AHD]
venison [OED]

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:: posted by David, 8:55 AM


"Hunted thing" sounds wayyyy less appetizing than "deer." Almost as bad as "squirrel."
Blogger Auntie Sarah, at 8:19 AM  

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