Eating Your Words

The fascinating origins of everyday culinary words and phrases

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Food glorious food!

Everything but the kitchen sink

Keep the pot boiling

Out of the frying pan

Salad days  

In the soup!

Cook one’s goose  

Give us a butchers!   

What a sauce!

A sandwich short of a picnic

Feeling groggy           

Just my cup of tea

Look to your laurels   

The spice of life      

In a nutshell   


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The meaning and origin of words and phrases related to mutton

Mutton is meat from an adult sheep, generally accepted as being from a sheep that is at least 2 years old. However, in reality, most mutton comes from sheep that have been used to breed from and which are no longer considered productive. The word derives from the Old French for sheep or ram, moton.

Mutton chops are a type of sideburn, i.e. hair grown down the sides of a man's face, in front of his ears and generally with no other part of a beard present. They widen out from the temples down. Dating from the second-half of the 19th century, the term derives from the similarity of their shape to the cut of meat.                

Mutton is recorded being used as slang for a prostitute in the 16th century & has been used to refer to women in a variety of disparaging ways, e.g. 'hawk one's mutton', meaning to flaunt one’s sexuality or solicit. Mutton dressed as lamb is a derogatory term used to describe an older woman dressed in the manner of someone much younger and who looks foolish as a result. From early in the 19th century, mutton was also used in a derogatory manner for either sex as part of the word muttonhead, used for a stupid person. This in turn is thought to be the origin of the term mutt meaning both a silly person and also used for a dog.   

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