Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
The expression tourne-dos or tournedos, “to turn the back”, has been in use in la belle langue for at least 4 centuries. One early usage was for “coward”. It was also used in the marketplace to design doubtful cuts of meat or especially fish that were flipped over in the display case in order to hide their shortcomings. That much is accepted. It is later on that things get fuzzy. Apocryphal theories abound regarding the origin of the special presentation of filet mignon known as tournedos Rossini in . The chef Escoffier averred in 1903 that too many arguments were being made about the orgin of the name, without any solid evidence to choose the one over the other. Here is a sampling of six, not all with the same ring of plausibility:
fillet of steak dish, 1877, from Fr., from tourner “to turn” (see turn) + dos “back.” According to Fr. etymologists, “so called because the dish is traditionally not placed on the table but is passed behind the backs of the guests” [OED].
It’s a word in the culinary field with the uncertain etymology, since the French word split becomes “tournez” and “dos”and literally means lower back. For some it was the Rossini’s butler to determine the name of the cut, because in order to keep the procedure secret, gave his finishing, always on his back to the guests. For others, the birth of the term took place during a lunch made at the Cafe des Anglais in Paris. Here Rossini, suggesting the recipe to the chef and receiving only complaints, was forced to respond: “Et alors, tournez the dos!” (then, turn your back). Finally, another version would indicate Carême as the creator of the recipe in honor of his friend the Master.
The French Dictionary of the Academy of Gastronomes gives one account for the origin of the name, which first made its appearance in the mid 1800s. “In the last century, the stalls backing onto (tournant les dos) the central alleys of the fresh fish pavilion, in the Paris Halles [markets], were assigned fish of doubtful freshness. By analogy, the name tournedos was given to pieces of filet of beef that were kept for a few days in storage. An indiscretion is said to have led to the word’s appearing on a restaurant menu one day; the public, not knowing its origin, adopted it.”
Larousse says another possibility is that the great opera composer Rossini placed an extravagant order for filet mignon with foie gras and truffles in a restaurant that surprised the headwaiter so much, he had the dish served behind the backs (dan les dos) of the other customers.
The French tournedos is a schwa sandwich, but that nicety is lost on my eye at the meat counter, where I read a French mangling of tornado. In this picture, do you see the small whirling storm? A rotating funnel cloud on the barbecue:
It’s not hard to find others with the same idea.
While we’re on the subject, the word tornado itself only picked up the sense of turning later in life, via an eggcorn mechanism. From etymonline:
tornado 1550s, navigator’s word for violent windy thunderstorm in the tropical Atlantic, probably a mangled borrowing from Sp. tronada “thunderstorm,” from tronar “to thunder,” from L. tonare “to thunder”. Metathesis of o and r in modern spelling influenced by Sp. tornar “to twist, turn,” from L. tornare “to turn.” Meaning “extremely violent whirlwind” is first found 1620s.
The speculations about “tournedos” derivations look like textbook folk etymologies.
If “tornado” really is (via metathesis) from the Spanish word for thunder, then the English “turnado” (3 examples below drawn from hundreds on the web) would an eggcorn. However, the OED gives “turnado” as a variant spelling of “tornado” and cites examples of this spelling from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
: “While she was shopping a turnado hit the grocery store and killed everybody. ”
: “ Everything seemed as if a turnado had just struck, everything destroyed.”
: “Does anyone know where i can get a fs2004 weather download? like a hurricane or a turnado or somethin like that?