Tag Archives: language

A world of words

If you enjoy language, deep thinking about humanity, or any kind of provocative thought, I encourage you to watch a new five-part series on BBC 2, Stephen Fry’s Planet Word.

In the BBC’s impenetrable wisdom, it has chosen not to show the series on BBC America yet, nor in the near future. There is, after all, only so much time left after one has scheduled the required doses of Gordon Ramsey’s various series and long-ago episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation.

Fortunately, we Americans can currently find the episodes posted online…. Continue reading A world of words

Condiment wars

More details of the World's Largest Catsup Bottle
We had some delicious scrapple yesterday, courtesy of my mom.

The glory of the food was nearly overshadowed, though, by discussions of the toppings available to put on them.

First, catsup vs. ketchup. As it happens, Both terms are acceptable in general, but for unknown reasons some people find the “catsup” spelling not just wrong but offensive.

Let’s take a look at where the words come from. According to World Wide Words:

Ketchup was one of the earliest names given to this condiment, so spelled in Charles Lockyer’s book of 1711, An Account of the Trade in India: “Soy comes in Tubbs from Jappan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin; yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China”. … The confusion about names started even before Charles Lockyer wrote about it, since there is an entry dated 1690 in the Dictionary of the Canting Crew which gives it as catchup, which is another Anglicisation of the original Eastern term. … There were lots of other spellings, too, of which catsup is the best known, a modification of catchup. You can blame Jonathan Swift for it if you like, since he used it first in 1730…”

Still not sure why people would be horrified that anyone would use the “catsup” spelling. Both are misspellings of an older Chinese word. Maybe we should return to that root?

Then, maple syrup vs. ketchup/catsup as a topping for scrapple: This division was a major one in my mother’s house when she was growing up. She preferred maple syrup — not an unusual choice, considering that many people enjoy syrup on sausage, and sausage is basically chunky scrapple. Her sister Bonnie thought this a bizarre choice, preferring catsup. (No word on which spelling she preferred.)

Live and let live, I say. Let us not fight over which condiments are the “right” ones. Rather, let’s sit down to table and enjoy both the food and each other’s company.

(Photo credit: More details of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, originally uploaded by anneh632.)