Food Necessities


The etymology of ketchup actually has several competing theories, namely: the Chinese theory, the “eggplant sauce” theory, the Malay theory, and the European-Arabic theory. The Chinese theory seems pretty strong, we must admit…

In the Chinese theory, it stems from either “kôe-chiap” or “kê-chiap”, both from the Amoy dialect, where it means “the brine of pickled fish or shellfish.”




As for the “eggplant sauce” theory, “ketchup” derives from a Chinese word composed of two characters (茄汁), which means “eggplant sauce”. The first character (), meaning “eggplant”, is also the root for the word “tomato” and the second character () means “juice” or “sauce.”

The Malay theory states that the English word originates from the Malay word kicap (or, kecapketjap), which translates to “fish sauce” – which is borrowed from the Chinese, anyway…

European-Arabic Theory:  E.N. Anderson, an American anthropologist, claimed that ketchup comes from the French escaveche, meaning “food in sauce”  (imagine… French ketchup!) while culinary historian Karen Hess traced it back to Arabic iskebey, or “pickling with vinegar”.



Blue Label Ketchup 1898, from wiki article





In Spades

The ‘spades’ in this phrase refers to the highest suit in cards, not the shovel. How did this shape get its name?

Playing Cards originated in Asia and spread across Europe around the 14th century. It arrived in England a little later than in Spain, Italy and Germany.

In spades“Essentially, the Italian versions of early cards used the suits CupsSwordsCoins and Batons — which, on migration to England, became HeartsSpadesDiamonds and Clubs. The image for Spades on English and French cards looks somewhat like that of the German Acorn or Leaf suits, but its origin is revealed by its name rather than its shape. The Spanish and Italian for sword is ‘espada’ and ‘spada’ respectively, hence the suit ‘Swords’ became anglicized as ‘Spades’.”

So where does the non-card-playing meaning come from? It is an Americanism:

First of all, the phrase isn’t found before the 1920s. Damon Runyon, an American journalist and writer, used the expression that way in a piece for Hearst’s International magazine, in October 1929:

I always hear the same thing about every bum on Broadway, male and female, including some I know are bums, in spades, right from taw.

Some other spade phrases: “cocky as the King of Spades”, “call a spade a spade”, “spade something up”



This delicious dish originates from the state of Louisiana, which blends the culinary regional Indian, African, French, and Spanish cultures. The word “gumbo” is derived from an African word for “okra” : “gombo.” It first appeared in print in 1805.

Maritime Names Political Shakespeare


The word “filibuster” can be traced back to a label given to pirates who marauded trade routes in the 17th and 18th centuries.   It originated from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, which literally translates to  “freebooter,”  [vrij (“‘free’”) +‎ buit (“‘booty’”) +‎ er].

The term spread across Europe with the Spanish and French translating it into filibustero and filibustier,  respectively.

Americans adapted the spelling and pronunciation to “filibuster” and expanded the definition to include mercenaries engaged in illicit military actions against foreign governments, referring in particular to Southern adventurers in Latin America.

In the mid-1800s, “filibuster” became popular in the U. S. Congress as a euphemism for delaying or blocking the passing of legislation by taking advantage of the procedural rules to hold the floor for inordinate amounts of time.    Senator Huey Long (D-LA) demonstrated a particular talent for filibustering, reciting everything from Shakespeare to recipes for Southern dishes for up to 15 hours at a time.

Food Life

Easy as Pie

Are pies really that easy to make? They sure are easy to eat, especially if it’s blueberry or chocolate creme or apple… or savory pies like chicken pot pie, or shepherd’s pie. Anyway, where does this phrase come from?

Supposedly, this simile was coined in 19th Century America. There are many similes in English, which basically perform the function of a simple comparison. Although there are quite a few variations of ‘pie’ similes, they are all distinctly American, and usually denote pleasantry and ease, such as “nice as pie,” “polite as pie,” or “pleasant as pie.”