GrammarPhile Blog

Idioms and Word Derivations

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 14, 2009 9:42:00 AM

Every time I write the vocabulary list for our weekly (well, we try) GrammarTip, I try to come up with a theme, based on the calendar or what's happening that week. Mother's Day, the World Series, elections - we've touched on many themes. Recently, my pizza-restaurant calendar informed me it was National Pizza Month, so we went with a pizza theme. Somewhere in the mix we encouraged readers to go out and get a great shrimp scampi pizza.

Well, well. A reader at a marketing firm, who works in a glass office (I know. He gave his web address; we went by and looked.) threw a stone. "That's redundant. In Italian," he wrote, "scampi means a shrimp-related animal, something like a lobster. So saying ‘shrimp scampi' is like saying ‘lobster lobster.'" Huh?

That's not true. It's not like saying "panini sandwich" or "Mount Fujiyama." Those are redundancies. Everybody knows that. Right? But here in America, ‘scampi' is more an idiom for a way of cooking something...with garlic, butter, and often a dry white wine. After all, go to many authentically Italian restaurants in America and you'll find chicken scampi, fish scampi, and, of course, shrimp scampi on the menu. And in Italian, the word for shrimp isn't even scampi. It's gamberi.

It got me wondering: What other foods are there where idiom has replaced the derivation of the word? Can you think of any? Blog back. We'll make a list.

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