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Salmagundi

Pronounced /ˌsælməˈɡʌndɪ/Help with pronunciation

Though this is now used mainly in a figurative sense of a mixture or miscellany, it was first attached in English to a dish of chopped meat, anchovies and eggs, garnished with onions, lemon juice, oil and other condiments. A right dog’s breakfast, in fact.

We know that the word came to us in the seventeenth century from the French salmigondis, of which older spellings in that language were salmiguondin and salmingondin. Here the trail of linguistic footprints ceases, and we must cast about to pick up the route again. One theory is that it was a dish first prepared for the French king Henri IV (or Henri VI in another version) by a nobleman’s wife, after whom it was named. Another, more prosaic but more plausible, is that it derives from the Italian phrase salame conditi, “pickled meat”. Yet another says it comes from the French salemine, “salted food” and condir, “to season”.

In English the name was corrupted to Solomon-gundy in the eighteenth century, and it’s probable that it’s related to the name in the children’s rhyme: “Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday, took ill on Thursday, worse on Friday, died on Saturday, buried on Sunday, that is the end of Solomon Grundy”, which was first set down by James Orchard Halliwell in 1842.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 3 Oct. 1998

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-sal1.htm
Last modified: 3 October 1998.