Monday, September 5, 2011

Etymology of Meat

Meat: It’s what was for dinner.

Until around the 13th century, meat and its predecessors simply referred to ‘food,’ be it flora or fauna, including food for animals. In English, it traces back to the O.E. maet. The words mast (as in nuts and pig feed) and must share similar OE roots, maest and must, which respectively meant the juice expressed from grapes before the fermentation of wine.

There are a couple of different PIE roots referred to in the literature, but I’ve yet to find a coherent enough etymology of meat past Old English to merit posting here.

During the 1300s, meat became associated solely with animal flesh just as the Fr. viande underwent the same development. More figurative uses of the word did not appear until the turn of the 20th century, just as the commoners developed enough means to begin getting into trouble. Victorians began whispering in parlor rooms of a woman’s light and dark meat in reference to her breasts, as both genders slinked off to dimly lit meat markets. The appearance of still lewder uses of the term have been lost to the pages of early yellow publishing houses where seemingly few etymologists have dared to thread.

The use of meat as the essence of a a matter also appeared at this time.

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