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The grand term sommelier for a wine waiter has been in English for more than a century (it’s from the French word for a butler; in the early days a greater variety of buttling was done than just serving wine). Much more recently, a word based on it has appeared: selmelier.

In addition to wine stewards, we’ve seen water sommeliers, tea sommeliers and beer sommeliers. Now, Portland, Ore., has what may be the world’s first selmelier.

Globe and Mail (Toronto), 8 Mar. 2011.

A selmelier helps you choose an appropriate gourmet salt to go with every dish. Salt is never just salt for a selmelier, who would hate you to have to season every dish with the same bland table condiment. There’s no shortage of alternatives. There are claimed to be more 150 different types of rock and sea salts, such as Icelandic hot springs salt, sel gris, Hawaiian Black Lava Salt and smoked sea salt.

The word is most often linked to the American Mark Bitterman, who sells such salts from a series of specialist stores and who coined it in 2006, he tells me, by blending the French word for salt, sel, with sommelier.

It shows some small signs of catching on:

In New York, spend enough money on dinner and you might make a new friend — a selmelier, to help you choose between Himalayan and black, smoked or salt touched with vanilla (very good in porridge and with fish).

The Independent (London), 10 May 2013.

A delightful partner for it would be peppier, one of Rich Hall’s Sniglets (“words that should appear in dictionaries, but don’t”). He defined it as “The waiter at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want fresh ground pepper.”

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Mar. 2011
Last updated: 4 Jun. 2013

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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-sel1.htm
Last modified: 4 June 2013.