Wednesday, 22 February 2012

gourmands and gournets gourmets

Over an enjoyable dinner tonight, one family member commented that it was good enough to be enjoyed by a gourmand. Wait a minute! Isn't a gourmand a greedy person? We weren't sure, so someone headed off from the table to get our battered old copy of The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary. Sure enough, the word means a greedy feeder, a glutton. But the dictionary included a third meaning - gourmet.

So we looked up gourmet. And found it means a connoisseur of table delicacies, judge of good food. The surprising finding was that this word comes from French, meaning wine-taster, and the modern sense has been influenced by the old word gourmand.

We seemed to be going in circles at this stage, so I've looked on the internet.

The Online Etymology dictionary says:
late 15c., "glutton," from M.Fr. gourmant "glutton," originally an adj., "gluttonous," of uncertain origin. Not connected with gourmet. Meaning "one fond of good eating" is from 1758.
So it seems as if the two words have completely different origins but one has influenced the other.

For gourmet, we read:
"connoisseur in eating and drinking," 1820, from Fr. gourmet, altered (by influence of M.Fr. gourmant "glutton") from O.Fr. groume, originally "wine-taster, wine merchant's servant" (in 13c. "a lad generally"), of uncertain origin. As an adjective from 1900. Cf. gourmand.
So, if I've understood it correctly, the Old French word for a lad - groume - became the word for a wine-taster (I wonder why?) and then acquired the meaning of a connoisseur of food in general and the somewhat similar word gourmand - glutton - caused people to start writing and saying groume as gourmet.I wonder how groume relates to the English word groom? But I guess that's another story.

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