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 champagne

A sparking wine drunk at celebrations, champagne is bottled whilst it is still fermenting. This is done so that the carbonic acid gas remains in solution ready to be released upon the bottle being opened. It is the release of this gas that gives champagne its famous bubbles and its colloquial name of bubbly. First recorded in 1664, the word champagne was borrowed from the French champagne, with the wine being named after the French province of that name. Nowadays, only wine produced there can legally be sold as champagne. The word champagne comes from the Late Latin campania meaning 'level country', itself from the Latin for field, field of battle campus which today has survived to today with the meaning of the grounds of a university. Campus is also the origin of the word camp in its meaning of "a group of tents", champion – originally meaning ‘a fighting man’ - and, through campānia, the word campaign. The Roman word for decamp was excampare which became escamper in Old French which developed into the current word scamper.   

The wine is so highly thought of that its name is used to denote excellence – e.g. ‘(something) is the champagne of (it’s type)’.   

Someone who is a noted drinker of champagne is often humorously referred to as a Champagne Charley, a name that appears to have originated as the title of a 19th century music hall song. The expression gained further exposure when it became the title of a 1944 Ealing studios musical film starring Tommy Trinder as George Leybourne – the stage name of one Joe Sanders (1842-84) - who originally popularized the song.

Champagne socialist is a depreciative term to describe someone who champions socialist ideals whilst enjoying the benefits of a wealthy lifestyle. The term is first recorded in 1987 in the New York Times and has parallels with the US term ‘limousine liberal’.

If you desire expensive things that you cannot afford, you may be said to have a champaign taste on a beer budget.

The word is also used for a pale cream colour, often in reference to fabrics or hair colour.

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