Do you enjoy sinking your teeth into a nice chunk of cow? Or a crispy piece of pig back meat? Chances are that you do, though you’re more likely to call these dishes beef and bacon. But why do the words for these animals change after they’re killed and served? And why does this shift only happen with certain meats?
To answer these questions, we have to step back almost 1,000 years into the past, as the prevailing theory is that this linguistic phenomenon results from the Norman invasion of England. In 1066, the Old French-speaking Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons, who spoke Old English. The Norman rulers imposed various measures of oppression on their new subjects, but they also introduced their language. . . .
Cow / Beef:
Photo courtesy of Pixabay 照片：Pixabay提供
It’s not just adult cows that acquired a new name after they were killed and prepared for Norman feasts. A young cow is called a “calf,” and this word comes from Old English. However, the animal is transformed into “veal” when it appears on a plate.
Pig / Pork:
As well as the word pig, which, like cow, has Old English origins, the Anglo-Saxons used to use the word “swine” for these animals. Both became pork when the Normans consumed their meat, though.
Chicken is one of several exceptions to this general change in terminology. While the Normans used the French word poulet for chicken meat, this became “pullet” in English. This word is only really utilized by chicken farmers and refers to young hens. No one is quite sure why this occurred.
Here’s another exception, as a fish is a fish regardless of whether it’s swimming in a river or gracing a dinner table. One possibility for why the French word poisson has never entered the English language is that it’s too close to “poison” — something no one wants to eat.
Norman n. 諾曼人 ／ adj. 諾曼人的
Anglo-Saxon n. 盎格魯─撒克遜人
calf n. 小牛
veal n. 小牛肉
swine adj. 豬
terminology n. 術語；專門用語
pullet n. 小母雞
1. chunk n. 塊；厚塊；大部分
Jeff cut the meat into small chunks before he put them in the boiling pot of soup.
2. shift n. 改變；轉移
Did you notice the shift in mood at the dinner table when I mentioned Francis’ name?
3. prevailing adj. 普遍的；盛行的
The prevailing opinion among the students was that the new teacher was too strict.
4. conquer vt. 征服；佔領；克服
The British Empire conquered many countries, but most of these have since become independent.
5. impose v. 推行；實施
After the outbreak of “mad cow disease” in the UK, many countries imposed a ban on UK beef imports.
6. oppression n. 壓迫；欺壓；壓抑
The slaves faced years of oppression before they were freed.
7. exception n. 例外；除外／exception to. . . 的例外
The teacher reminded Larry that he wasn’t an exception to the rules and had to follow them.
8. refer to 指的是；意指
The French term ancien regime refers to the governments that ruled the country before the revolution.
9. grace vt. 使增色；使生輝
Colorful gardens and white stone statues grace the entrance of the beautiful castle.
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