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Dinner-party trivia

Not all hors d'oeuvres were edible

The next time you reach for an hors d'oeuvre at a dinner party, think architecture! This French term, which now means an anchovy, olive, radish, or the like served before a meal, used to mean an outbuilding. From the French hors meaning "outside" or "apart from" and oeuvre for "the main work," an hors d'oeuvre means an aside.

Architects were among the first to use the expression to describe any structure that was not included in a primary design. Chefs then used the term to label appetizers served apart from the main course.

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Hash and rehash

Hash, to an Englishman, means "old matter served up in a different form," referring to meat served in small pieces. The word derives from the French hacher, to cut up.

Common in middle-class inns, leftovers or hash from a shoulder of meat didn't get too many complaints until it became rehash, served up again, usually as meat loaf.

Almost immediately, its name spread to include any debate or speech in which one hears the same old arguments again and again.


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