Missing info in story on potatoes

I would like to comment on the story of French fries. The author said they appeared in Paris in the 1840s without mentioning they first appeared (and were invented) in Brussels, Belgium in the 1820s, as it is widely documented in Belgian history and in the first “french fry” store in the world near the Grand Place. They should be called Belgian fries but since they got to America via France, the french took the credit for them, since America didn’t care where they really came from… (does that sound familiar?).
Things that did come from France: Denim (blue jeans material), the concept of the barbeque (barbe-au-cul) and the origin of Tennis.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board, Chacal. It is helpful when you start a topic, if you provide a link to the Staff Report or Column upon which you are commenting. It helps others to follow what you are saying, avoids people adding comments covered in the Report, and generally helps keep the discussion more focused.

In this case: What’s the origin of french fries?

There is also some further discussion on that point here: Belgian fries and French fries

I can only say that none of the history of food books that I looked into (including the Oxford Companion to Food) provided evidence of Brussels as the origin, although some said “it was claimed that…” . It seems to be a cherished Belgium myth (don’t jump all over me, being a myth doesn’t mean untrue, just means has mythic proportion.) And so I worded the report with some deliberate vaguenss as to actual origin.

In any case, welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, we’re glad to have you with us!

The word denim is named after a city in France (Nîmes), but the original material of that name was a woolen fabric, not the cotton one we now know as denim. I don’t know where twilled cotton denim was first made. Barbecue is not from the a French phrase meaning “beard to tail” but is probably a word of Taino origin. (Taino was an indigenous language of the Caribbean).

At least the Belgians got to keep the credit for the pissing boy statue.

Indeed, Nîmes is the origin of the woolen fabric but also that of the cotton one a few years later. The man who exported it to the US for the first time was called Jean, hence the word jeans, not immediately describing what we call jeans today.
I beg to differ on barbecue. In regional France people still use Barbe-au-cul to descirbe the cooking method of beard to tail. Plus, simply get an anglosaxon to pronounce that and you shall get “barbecue” every time.
It may have a meaning in Taino but remember the french roamed around central america and the caribbean for centuries.

According to my Webster’s Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, the etymology of “barbecue” is as follows:

According to Merriam-Webster online, it dates from 1690.

I don’t even have to check the OED to know that Merriam-Webster online is wrong. I’ve seen it myself in a novel of 1688, and I remember that the OED lists it earlier.

That same author (Aphra Behn) regards the word as an Americanism (Colonialism) that has to be explained to English readers.

I believe you will find that jeans take their name from the city of Genoa, Italy. The name of the importer may have been Jean, but they weren’t named for him.


Chacal. All you have to do is come up with a print citation in Frence which antedates the OED listing in English of 1661 for the verb form thusly: “Some are slain, And their flesh forthwith Barbacu’d and eat.”

There are a myriad of cites over the next 100+ years of descriptions of the framework cookers that the Carribean people used.

You could always be correct. But you need to give a cite somewhere along the way about those French persons who referred to cooking their meat in that fashion in Europe prior to 1661.

Funnily enough I have two bits of information:
A lithography from 1558 describing the following: chasseur cuisant le gibier […] de la barbe au cul […] at the Musée National du Moyen Age, Cluny, Paris. (I live 20mins away) If you want to see it, just go the the last section of the museum. The image shows hunters with some sort of dear being BBqd from beard to tail.

Second, a definition of barbecue from the Larousse dictionary (in french): From spanish Barbacoa (de barba a cola) [or from beard to tail!!] Also found in Haitian language, most likely from french de la barbe au cul.

So Duck Goose was also right. Either way it is from beard to tail and not an obscure indigenous language word.

Bibliophage: you are right. However the coincidence is strange. I happened to meet the decendents of the guy who believe it was named after him rather than Genoa (meaning John in Lombard).

OK, if the origin is “beard to tail”, then one just has to ask: Why beard? The only animal I know of with a “beard” is the goat, and goats aren’t generally considered good eats. Now, if the word were “nose to tail”, say, or “teeth to tail”, I might consider it, but “beard” sounds like it was a folk-etymology attempt at explainin a foreign word.

Besides which, the Carribean people were surely cooking meat outdoors on latticeworks before the Europeans came along, and kitchen utensils are the sort of thing that get their name from their native language. What were such lattices called before Columbus, if not barbeques?

Barbecued goat is considered, if not a delicacy, at least mighty tasty in the southwestern U.S. Cabrito (which means “little goat” in Spanish, so maybe it’s actually barbecued kid) is served quite regularly in many parts of Texas and New Mexico.

Chronos: the word beard is a synonym of chin, especially in the old days, and does not necessarily mean hair on the chin.

Most native languages of the Central and South America and taken in Spanish words and variations as their own, along with Christianity. That’s what colonization is. In west Africa, a lot of dialects have French words in them and the local people don’t even know it. The Haitian interesting mix of dialects has 40% of French in it. In the Philippes, Tagalog has about 30% of Spanish words and most Philipinos can’t tell which ones.
They most likely all had names for everything but those names were replaced by foreign words for a number of reasons. Even today for instance the French use the word “e-mail” because it is much more practical than “Courrier Electronique”.

Chacal I appreciate all of your responses in the thread.

You said

The important thing to know is WHEN did the description get added to the “print”(lithography) I doubt that it was in 1558. But I could be wrong.

Also, you say

Does the dictionary give a cite as to date?

Samclem: Well I can always go to the museum and ask… But it is an expression I have seen before in several writings from the middle ages, and I particularly remember an old song from the times of the 100-year War that mentions it rather crudely. The fact that the expression has existed in the French language before America was discovered is not an issue. Same thing in Spanish. Putting a stick through an animal from beard (chin) to tail in order to cook it was depicted in Roman and Greek art and I’m sure they didn’t invent it either.
The debate here is whether the anglosaxon word Barbecue takes its origins in either French, Spanish or some indigenous language.
So far, common sense and dictionaries say it either comes from Barbacoa or Barbe-au-cul, which mean the same thing. Whether it was imposed first by the Conquistadores on the indigenous people of Costa Rica (Taino language) or on the Haitians by the French, only a Historian/Linguist can answer that. But I challenge you to find me the real word these people used. It is very unlikely it will have Latin roots…

… it’s not from the ancient Texan?