or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, October 13, 2008


As it is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, Jim and I decided to do up a proper big breakfast after going to the gym, and so we cooked up our version of the Full English Breakfast, which we first experienced during a trip to the UK last year and in our case today consisted of bacon, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, toast, and baked beans.

Now, Jim and I will speak to one another in German or French every now and then (sentences and exchanges, not whole discussions), not because we are pretentious but because we've both studied those languages intermittently and because we like to keep our conversation interesting. (After twenty-one years, we still haven't run out of things to talk about.) Since there were beans on the menu, I said something in French about them, and then it hit me suddenly and hard that the French word for "navy beans", "fèves", is so similar to the first word of the phrase "fava beans" that "fève" and "fava" must be etymologically related (with "fava" almost certainly being Italian), and therefore, that "fava bean" is a tautology. I can't believe I never noticed all this before, but there it is.

The Latin word for "bean" is "faba", which self-evidently gave birth to both the French and the Italian words. (Spanish for beans, or at least certain kinds including kidney beans, is "frijoles", which you would not expect to be related, and isn't; it's eventually from Latin "phaseolus", which in turn is from Greek "phaselos", "cow-pea".

You may also know that French has another word for beans; "haricots", which generally means green beans and the like. "Haricot" in Louisiana French gave birth to the music form called zydeco, because the phrase "les haricots"--which derives from a song title--is pronounced, approximately, "lay-zah-dee-coh", with the "-d-" representing a rolled "r".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another word for beans in Iberian Spanish is "judias"- which also means "female Jews". I don't get it either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 11:56:00 AM  

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