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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Englishman on a bun

The first example of the word "barbecue" in English is someone saying “We lay all night on our barbecues”! That will give you something to think about as you fire up your propane beast. But the hapless English were not being slow-roasted with hickory sauce. The Arawak, a native people of the Caribbean, slept on raised wooden platforms of sticks, their name for which the invading Spanish adopted as barbacoa in the 1600s. A similar framework was also used for smoking and drying meat, which is clearly the origin of the current meaning of the word. There is no truth to the explanation that the word comes from the French “barbe à queue”, suggesting that an animal was roasted whole “from beard to tail”.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.