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Cooking, kitchens and dining are very important to our culture.  Because of this, the word history of common terms associated with the kitchen and cooking is a way of looking at cultural changes.

       Eggs or eyren?  Attribute: Pietro Izzo / Flick
Kitchen comes from Old English cycene, which would have been pronounced something like "kitchena".  There were and are cognate words in the West Germanic languages, such as Middle Dutch cökene, Old High German chuhhina, and modern German Küche, all of which probably came from Latin coquina, a form of the verb coquere, meaning to cook.  Coquina was also the origin of French cuisine (also an English word now, but with a somewhat different meaning) and Spanish cocina.  

Cook is also from Latin coquere.  The Germanic languages had no general word for food preparation, and hence borrowed the Latin term.  These languages did have specific terms such as bake, from Old English bacan, with a German cognate, backen.  However, boil and fry entered English in the centuries after the Norman Conquest, and both have French and ultimately Latin roots.

Oven comes from Old English ofen, and has cognates in the Germanic languages, such as modern Dutch oven, and German Ofen, as well as various forms in former languages, such as Old High German ovan, Old Swedish oghn, and Gothic auhns.  The word is thought to descend from a word in the hypothetical Pro-Germanic language *ukhnaz, (the * indicates a hypothetical word) and may be related to Sanskrit ukhah, meaing a pot or a cooking pot.

Pan comes from Old English panne, again this is another word with Germanic cognates (Dutch pan, German Pfanne).  The word seems to have entered the predecessors of these languages at an early date from Latin patina, meaning a shallow dish, stew pan, or pan.  Curiously patina itself entered English again at a much later date, and referred original to the green oxide coating ancient bronze vessels, although now the usage is someone broader.

Pot is a rather odd word, which was present in both Old English as pott and Old French as pot.  Supposedly both languages picked up the word from a hypothesized Vulgar Latin *pottus, but where this came from is unclear.  It is supposedly it not related to Latin potus, meaning a drinking cup, from Latin potare, which is the origin of the English potable, meaning drinkable water, but given the similarity of the words an meanings, I find this hard to credit.  Curiously, pot, although a common English word, has no cognates in the Germanic languages.

Pie is another strange English word.  As of the late 1100s, piehus ("pie house") was used to describe a bakery), and pie itself is supposed to have come from Medieval Latin pie.  Gaelic picked up pie from English as pighe, but other than that there are no cognate forms of this word in any other languages.

Bread meant originally crumb or morsel in Old English, whereas what we think of as bread was called hlaf, which became loaf in modern English.  

Some idea of the centrality of baking to the culture of a pre-modern society can be gauged from the fact that modern lord came from Old English hlaford, which came from an earlier form hlafweard, meaning literally 'loaf ward', that is, one who guards the loaves.   A now abandoned word for household servant in was hlafæta, literally a "loaf-eater."

Egg has an interesting history in English, as it was original from Old Norse and entered English from a dialect in north England, an area which spent many years under Norse domination.  The southern English word for egg was eye or eai, from Old English Old English æg. (G in Old English was pronounced somewhat like modern Y).  The plural in the southern dialects was eyren.  This gave rise to a classic complaint in 1490 by William Caxton, the first English publisher:

For we Englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is never stedfaste but ever waverynge, wexynge one season and waneth and dyscreaseth another season. And that comyn Englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a-nother, in so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn marchauntes were in a ship in Tamyse [Thames] for to have sayled over the see into Zelande, and, for lacke of wynde, thei taryed atte Forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them. And one of theym named Sheffelde, a mercer, cam in to an hows and axed for mete and specyally he axyd after eggys, and the goode wyf answerde that she could speke no Frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no Frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges; and she understode hym not. And thenne at laste a-nother sayd that he wolde have eyren. Then the good wyf sayd that she understod hym wel. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges, or eyren? Certaynly it is hard to playse every man, by-cause of dyversite and chaunge of langage.
So it would seem that English has been always changing. There is no "pure" English language and never has been, which is probably good.  

And confusing sometimes.  Let's not forget the multiple meanings of serve, which ultimately comes from Latin servus, meaning "slave".

We assume that our own form of social organization, which is based on the nuclear family, rather than the tribe, or the clan, or an extended family, is somehow inevitable.  But to some extent, this can be viewed as a product of the development of technology and transportation which allows decentralized preparation of food.  Word history, such as that of lord, might help show this.


When you're cooking, what is the primary thing on your mind?

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