Sunday, 16 February 2014

How can ‘Bully’, ‘Cabbage’ and 'Pumpkin' link to Valentine’s Day?

As I have written before, hundreds of words in English have shifting meanings.

As we all know today, ‘bully’ means someone who is nasty, intimidating and overbears people for their own gain which may not be the best definition to think about when talking about Valentine’s Day. However,when this term first entered English in the mid-1500s, it did so as a gender-neutral term for ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’.

Another not-so-romantic term is ‘cabbage’, used today to refer to a ‘sweetheart’ or someone held dear. The term probably has French origins: 'Chou' (cabbage) in Petit chou is the French equivalent of 'sweetheart'. 'Chou' conveys the idea of being small and round and is used to describe French puff pastry, often enjoyed as 'chou a la creme'. 'Chou' is said to resemble a baby's or child's head too. Over the years, many French children have been told that boys were born in cabbages and girls in roses. You can double it too - 'chouchou' is a standard translation for 'darling'. This is why we may also refer to a loved-one as 'pumpkin' - Portugese for squash (similar to pumpkin) is 'Chuchu', strangely alike to the French 'chouchou'.

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