Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fried Enema Revisited

In early January, I posted a photo that Sanam took during her trip to China. She had spotted a restaurant menu that listed fried enema. She was understandably perplexed.

Per the suggestion of word blogger Goofy, I sent a link to my post over to the people at Language Log, who were kind enough to repost it with an explanation. We can all be thankful that the food-that-should-not-be isn’t, in fact. Fried enema is merely sausage or a meat-free sausage-like substance made of wheat flour and fried, sometimes in hog casings. The enema appears as a result of the last two characters in the dish’s Chinese name —炸灌腸, written in the English alphabet as zhá guànchang and translating as “fried sausage” — being pronounced as guàncháng, which could be the noun “enema” and the verb “to give an enema.”

The commenters did not discuss why there would be such a similarity between the words for “sausage” and “enema,” but given that the verb form of guàncháng literally translates as “to irrigate the intestine,” I’m guessing that the similarity may not be coincidental. I don’t know much about Chinese, but there’s a certain visual resemblance between a sausage and an intestine. And the English word colon comes from the Greek kolon, which can mean both “large intestine” and “food” or “meat.”

which is it? WHICH IS IT?!

I know, I know — just when fried enema began to sound a little less gross, I went and spoiled sausage for everyone.

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