Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Ham in the Hamburger

Have you ever bumped into the anecdotal or philosophical question: 'why is there no ham in a hamburger?'

This question is often used as an example to demonstrate the complications generated by homonyms in folk etymology, or to remind us to widen our horizons.

The standard answer, of course, is that in reality the hamburger is named after the German city of Hamburg. It follows the same naming pattern as numerous other foodstuffs, like the kasseler (a cured pork thing from Kassel), the manchego (a cheese from La Mancha) or mayonnaise (the amorphous white stuff from Menorca).

The fact that one will find the word 'ham' in 'hamburger' is mere coincidence.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A42215186


Setu said...

If you have experienced mayonnaise only as an "amorphous white stuff", I regret to tell you that you have missed a lot. My home made mayonnaise is neither amorphous nor white, nothing to do with a Heinz junk food companion.

Noddy330 said...

Yes, I agree.

In 1756, Duke de Richelieu landed in Menorca with 20,000 French troops to root out Menorca's British rulers. During his stay the Duke's chef invented a new sauce, based on the local allioli recipe, which was served at the victory banquet in Paris. Mahonnaise was an instant success and has gone on to achieve world domination. The sauce's name became mayonesa in Spanish and mayonnaise in English, although some purists still prefer mahonesa to underline it's Menorcan origins.