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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vocabulary Is (Etymologically) Unrelated

By Request:

I like curry, to understate drastically. Which is why I was surprised to learn that there's no such thing. Not in India anyway. 
Picture is Unrelated
 Curry is the English version of the Tamil word kari, which just means sauce. The English went to India and amid all their oppressing and such, they discovered a new favorite national dish. Or a new national favorite sauce anyway. Not surprising considering the fact that up until then, the national dish was meat and root vegetables boiled until gray.
Now, the curry powder in your mom's spice cabinet is only the best approximation white guys could come up with. Sort of like how UB40 was the best approximation of Bob Marley that white people could come up with. The thing that gives curry its unique flavor is actually a mix of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, and ginger.
Picture is Unrelated
(That's Bea Arthur wrestling with some velociraptors,
if you weren't aware.)

Now recently, I was hanging out with some friends, and one of them wondered where the expression curry favor comes from, and whether it's related to curry, the spice mixture.
On the bright side, I got nearly to the
bottom of the page of search results
before I found unholy fan art.
Being known, as I am, for spouting off knowledge at every opportunity, I had to think fast. "Well obviously," I said, "this is a reference to Christopher Columbus. As we know, back in Christopher Columbus' time, the spices of India were highly valued - and highly rare. Once several monarchs had denied Christopher Columbus' request for funding to sail around the world, he took a different approach with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. See, Queen Isabella was well-known for her fondness for throwing lavish dinner parties and prided herself on the exotic foods she served. Columbus used this to his advantage; promising the queen her weight in spices when he returned from the Indies. Intrigued, Isabella convinced her husband to fund the trip, and thus 'curry favor,' meaning to gain advantage by appealing to an individual's specific tastes."*
Turns out the curry in curry favor is etymological unrelated to the spice. The real etymology is kinda boring. Something to do with horses. So boring that I'm just copying the text from the Online Etymology Dictionary rather than trying to unearth some kind of joke material from some paraphrased version.
early 16c., altered by folk etymology from curry favel (c.1400) from Old French correier fauvel "to be false, hypocritical," literally "to curry the chestnut horse," which in medieval French allegories was a symbol of cunning and deceit. See curry (v.). Old French fauvel is from a Germanic source and ultimately related to fallow (adj.); the sense here is entangled with that of similar-sounding Old French favele "lying, deception," from Latin fabella, diminutive of fabula.
I added the funny pictures because this post
isn't very interesting.

* Okay, I said nothing of the sort. I don't think nearly so fast. What I really said was "mmmm want. curry."
But that's a pretty good story, right? I mean, that could totally be a real false etymology. Hey, if you all wanted to send that lie viral...

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