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Word for the Wise October 24, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Arabic food stories

Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a period of fasting between sunrise and sunset for many Muslims—ended yesterday at sunset. Last night’s sighting of the new moon marked both the beginning of the new month and the start of Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday celebrating the breaking of both the period of fasting and of all evil habits. Fitr means "break" and Eid means "Festival"; as you might expect, much of this holiday involves eating. (来源:专业英语学习网站 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

Our celebration takes the form of feasting on a few of the various foods whose path into English included at least a stop in Arabic.

Most of the food terms from Arabic passed through at least one other language before ending up in our lexicon. Aubergine and couscous, for example, traveled from Arabic into French before making their way into English, while artichoke and coffee count both an Italian and a Turkish ancestor in their histories. Spinach and sugar, meanwhile, come ultimately from Persian, but turned up in Arabic before they were borrowed into the languages that fed them into English.

Our favorite Arabic food story belongs to soda. Although that word entered English from Italian, it has an ancestor in the Arabic suwwad, naming any of several saltworts, from the ashes of which sodium carbonate is obtained.

 
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