Sunday, 14 September 2008


Think that's just a strawberry, eh? Picked up a bit of French, have you? Like to ask the waiter if the fraises des bois were flown in this morning, do you?


Far from the sophisticated polyglot man-of-the-world you have always imagined yourself to be, you are in fact an ignorant and pretentious oaf. If you had had a proper education you would have known that Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary had this entry for the word:
fraise n.s. [French, the caul of an animal.]
A pancake with bacon in it

But this is not the end of the matter; let us go further. My Shorter Harrap gives the soft fruit definition and also this:
fraise n.f.
Culinary: crow (of calf, lamb)

Here I must confess my own ignorance: what is a calf's (or lamb's) crow? On then to the OED; after Corvus Corone (or Americanus), and the noise that cocks make, we have the third meaning (the fourth is a North American Indian):

crow, n
The mesentary of an animal (1818 Young Woman's Companion: The liver and crow are much admired fried with bacon.)

So Samuel's "caul" may have been wrong but his reference to bacon suggests that he was on the right lines.

Hang on, what's this mesentery? That's new to me too. It's a word widely used since 1425 and I wish I hadn't looked it up. According to the OED:
mesentary, n.
Anat. and Zool. Originally: the folded sheet of peritoneum in which the jejunum and ileum are suspended from the dorsal abdominal wall. Later also: any of several other folds of peritoneum serving a similar function for other organs; the embryonic precursor of these structures, a double layer of splanchnic mesoderm attached to both the dorsal and ventral walls of the body, which also temporarily supports the organs of the chest.

A double layer of splanchnic mesoderm sounds to me to be a bit over the top. Admirable it may be, but I don't think I'd like it fried with bacon, and even less if served with cream, à la Romanoff.

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