This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Word To Use Today: anchovy.

According to a djs surveyanchovies are the most hated food in Britain.

Poor anchovies. They're salty little things, sure enough, and the advice I was once given in a respectable newspaper to add an anchovy to the gravy of a steak pie proved sadly unreliable (it imbued only a faint suspicion of drains), but on the whole an anchovy seems an innocent enough thing.

Still, a survey can't be wrong. Can it.

The reason I'm thinking about anchovies is because I recently came across the anchovy pear, and after the gravy debacle I must say it gave me pause. Research proved at first only more confusing because the scientific name of the anchovy pear is Grias cauliflora, and a cauliflower is of course a vegetable and neither fruit nor fish. In fact, the anchovy pear is said to resemble in taste a mango. 

To make matters even worse, the tree on which the anchovy pear grows occurs in Jamaica and South America, whereas the anchovy itself is to be found off southern Europe, and even there very seldom up trees.

So how on earth has the anchovy pear got saddled with the name anchovy? I mean, it's not a fish, and it's not salty. A fruit doesn't have hundreds of very tiny bones. A fruit can't swim (though the anchovy pear can float). 

So is the name anchovy a failed attempt to pronounce some native word, or...

...ah. At last! I've found the answer. 

The name anchovy pear was given to the fruit in the 1700s because it was used a lot as an hors d'oeuvre, just as were anchovies.

Though presumably not on the same dish.

Word To Use Today: anchovy. Anchovies are small members of the herring family. The word comes from the Spanish anchova, perhaps from the Greek aphuē, small fish. Cauliflory is the habit of some plants to form flowers on their trunks or branches rather than on the ends of their twigs.

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