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Word Facts for May 14-20, 2011

Word origin for the weekend of May 14-15, 2011: Brooklyn-style pizza – New Yorkers know that a good piece of pizza can be easily folded over and eaten like a pocket sandwich, a process that usually involves a stream of grease running down one’s forearm, a very small price to pay indeed. Outside New York, this is called “Brooklyn-style pizza,” even though the earliest pizzerias were found not in Brooklyn but in Manhattan’s Little Italy section. Brooklyn, incidentally, takes its name from the town of Breukelen in Holland.

Word origin for May 16, 2011: ozone – First isolated in 1840 by Christian Friedrich Schönbein (1799-1868), a German chemist, “ozone” is a form of oxygen. Schönbein came up with the name from the Greek verb ozein, meaning “to stink,” because of the acrid smell associated with the gas. The Texas town of Ozona takes its name from nearby fields of natural gas that give off a similarly sharp smell.

Word origin for May 17, 2011: deadpan – In the argot of the theatre world, pan makes “face.” A “dead pan,” therefore, is a face that shows no emotion or expression, perfect for suggesting stoicism or (in comedy) incomprehension. Critics have coined the term “deadpan violence” to describe the emotionless killings that have characterized films by the likes of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino.

Word origin for May 18, 2011: chutney – In Hindi, chatna or chatni refers to a spicy, often hot condiment made of fruit / peppers / other ingredients that was traditionally used to mask the flavor of meat that was beginning to spoil. The British colonizers of India liked the concoction so much that they began to consume it at home as well as abroad, leading to the establishment of the Major Grey’s Chutney factory in Mumbai, at one time the world’s largest exporter.

Word origin for May 19, 2011: Oregon – The origin of the name for the American state of “Oregon” is disputed. Some sources claim that it comes from the Algonquin word wauregan (“beautiful”), others that it comes from the Chinook jargon word for an oily smelt that was highly prized as a trade item and abundant in the waters of “Oregon.” Still others link it to the French pronunciation of the Carib Indian word hurucan, which gives us our “hurricane” and well describes the state’s often stormy coast.

Word origin for May 20, 2011: macedonia – In French cuisine, a macédoine (rendered in English in that form or as macedonia) is a mixed-fruit salad, sometimes served with cream or ice cream. The name is fanciful, borrowed from the former Greek and Yugoslav province in the Balkans, which is famously a mix of many ethnicities. Originally the French term was a metaphor for a mixed-up jumble, and then it was later applied to food.

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