Beef is not a euphemism for cow


An aspiring vegan recently claimed that “beef” is a euphemism for cow–suspecting some sort of linguistic camouflague concealing the fact, and assuaging our consciences that, we are consuming an animal. This is a patently false claim, one that I hear often, and perhaps one I even made during my 11 year stint as a vegetarian.

The false argument:

  • Beef euphemizes cooked cow;
  • Pork euphemizes cooked pig;
  • Venison euphamizes cooked deer

Other culinary lingo blatantly contradicts the claim:

  • Rabbit = cooked rabbit;
  • Chicken = cooked chicken;
  • Turkey = cooked turkey;
  • Fish = cooked fish (sushi is simply a borrowed loan word–like tofu–not a euphemism);
  • Liver = cooked liver (usually preceded by the type–chicken… or calves… or pork…;
  • Brains = cooked brains

Still, there are true culinary euphemisms:

  • Fries (or “Rocky Mountain oysters”) = cooked testicles
  • Sweetbreads = cooked thymus gland (the first use occurs in the mid-16th century)
  • Pluck = (Scottish) that which is first “plucked” out of a sheep upon slaughter, which is the liver, heart, lungs, heart, etc.–the traditional mammalian ingredients for hagus.

Dudes,… English has a huge linguistic, technical, and culinary vocabulary, influenced by many factors, not the least of which are economic/culinary class societies (English nobility = Francophile eaters and adopters of French culinary terms), the Norman invasion, the industrial revolution, and many other events that have created a language with the largest vocabublary and nuance on the planet.

Rant over.


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