Thursday, 26 January 2012

Do you know why English has different names for animals and their meat?

I'm sure everybody knows the famous beef steak? But why is it called beef if the animal it comes from is the cow?

The story goes back to old times. When in 1066, following the battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror began to rule England along with Normandy, most of the aristocracy became Norman (French).

The Norman Flag

The Battle of Hastings 1066 on the Bayeux Tapestry

William the Conqueror

The peasants on the fields spoke old English but the landlords and their chefs in the castles spoke French.

Therefore in the field an animal had an English name but once it got to the kitchen the French name was used.

Norman castle in Portchester, England

Over time, these words passed on to regular people as ingredients used by the royal chefs.
The words have changed a little but you can still see their French origin:

beef – Old French: boef (ox)
pork – Old French: porc, from latin: porcus (pig)
venison – Old French: venaison (meat of large game, boar or deer, in French it means "to hunt")
mutton – Old French: mouton (sheep)
veal - French: veau (calf)

The word "bacon" also comes from French: cured pig's meat.

 Apart from the original farm animals, the ones coming later have still the same animal and meat names, such as turkey etc.

Match the meat names with the pictures. 

venison (2), beef, hen, duck, pork, veal, mutton, turkey, lamb, goose


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