Thursday, January 09, 2014


 In a move that caught me by surprise, the word junket came up several times during last Tuesday’s program. I mentioned that it had been one of my least favorite childhood desserts because of its slimy texture. Jim from Petoskey mentioned that, in contrast, he had loved it, especially the maple-flavored variety. Marge from Suttons Bay called in to praise the type used in pie fillings—above all, for raspberry pie, her favorite.

The discussion started with mention of the political junket, a trip taken by a politician at taxpayer expense, something universally abhorred by civilians. It evolved from junket used to describe a picnic—or, indoors—a banquet.

Originally, junket was the word for a basket made of woven rushes. It was used to carry fresh fish. Later, it referred to a rush mat upon which a cream cheese mixture was placed.

Its predecessor was the Italian giuncata, a cream cheese that was sold in rush baskets. That, in turn, evolved from the Latin juncata, cream cheese, which was indebted to junca, rushes.

So, the container and the thing contained became inextricably intertwined. How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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