Ham

Apparently calling someone a ‘ham’ has it’s origin in some politically incorrect history.  The original phrase for an over-actor was ham-fatter but it has since been shortened.  

Minstrel shows were old-timey shows with jokes and comedy (albeit racist comedy) involving white and black actors in black face make-up.  These actors were considered lesser actors by their screen and theater counterparts.  So a ham is someone who tries to overact, not understanding the subtleties of the art.  

The main theories of origin are that these actors used ham fat to remove the black face make-up.  The other origin story says it generated from the popular minstrel song “The Ham-Fat Man”.  Anyone who would sing that song was an actor of poor taste.  

 

Cure

Cure now means a remedy, an absolute termination of a disease.  But it used to mean to take care of.  From this sense we get the words curate and curator, positions of caring for souls and objects respectively.  But why do we call meat that has been altered for preservation or just for the sake of taste cured?  Curing meat involves salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar.  It probably has something to do with caring for the food to make sure it has been preserved.  

Medjool

The Medjool date is nicknamed “The king of dates” for a reason.  It is perhaps the most prized of the many varieties available for its size and sweet flavor.  Dates  are considered the oldest cultivated fruits in the world, cultivated for the last 6,000 years.  

The word Medjool is Arabic and means ‘unknown’.  The reason why this date is called ‘unknown’ is well…unknown.

Spaghetti Westerns

Between the years 1964 and 1973 more than 500 Italian-made Westerns were produced.  But why Italian?  Where were the Americans?  It turns out that during the 1950′s Americans started bringing the TV into their house.  That meant less time at the cinema so studios started focusing more on television shows – leaving a void.  The rest of the world was still without television and the appetite for Westerns was just as big as ever.  Countries all over Europe started to mass-produce Western films, but ultimately it was the dynamic duo, Ennio Morricone (composer) and Sergio Leone (director) who put Italy on the top of the list.  Thus was invented the ‘Spaghetti Western’.

Together they invented the style that anyone would recognize as a “Western”, long protracted camera shots, dramatic music and morally flexible protagonists (unlike the traditional John Wayne good-guy).  Clint Eastwood was the first Spaghetti Western film star.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fist Full of Dollars are two prime examples of the Spaghetti Western.

Quentin Tarantino is a vocal fan of the Spaghetti Western.  Kill Bill II and Django Unchained are both homages to the style.

Quote of the Week

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.

Barbara Jordan

Kielbasa

A kielbasa is a polish sausage. The word has two possible origins, it can mean kulbasti, “grilled cutlet,” literally “pressed on the ashes” from the Turkish language.  Or it could come from Hebrew and mean kolbasar “all kinds of meat.”

Pasta

In Spanish, toothpaste is pasta de dientes, pasta meaning paste.  Then why is pasta also a noodle from Italy?  They do indeed share the same root.  Pasta was a Late Latin word meaning dough and comes from Greek meaning barely porridge.  Over the years you can see that its meanings have grown to mean things that are sticky – like toothpaste. 

 

Ganado

I was surprised to learn the word for cattle in Spanish is ‘ganado’.  The other meanings of this word are ‘won’ or ‘earned’.   According to a Spanish website about etymology, the word ‘ganado’ to mean cattle is an extremely old word – a holdover from feudalism in Europe.  ‘Ganado’ used to mean any sort of riches that were not inherited.  Cattle were one of these types of riches.  Another Spanish word for cattle is ‘vacuno’ which shares the Latin root ‘vacca’ with our word ‘vaccine’.  Vaccines were originally a shot of cowpox that would safe guard against smallpox.    

 

Spam

In 2011, 7 trillion Spam messages were sent out to the world.  Spam is that annoying junk mail, not meant for me in particular, that once filled my inbox (thanks Gmail).  But why is it called ‘Spam’?  The origin of this unfortunate email’s name is from a famous Monty Python skit.  In the skit, called ‘Spam’, two customers sit in a diner and decided what they would like to order.  It is breakfast time and everything on the breakfast menu has spam in it.  But one of the customers doesn’t like Spam.  A loud argument between the customer and the waitress ensues.  Then the other diners (all Vikings) start to sing “Spam!, Spam!, Spam!” very loudly. 

The actual meat, Spam, is a joining of the words ‘spiced’ and ‘ham’.

Quote of the Week

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

Alan Watts

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