Are you antsy to learn the history of this popular word?
Summer is the season of outdoor dining, and especially this summer, when we need to maintain safe distances from each other. Eating outdoors, especially seated on the ground, has its own special rituals, gear, and a particular feeling of leisure and relaxation. It also has a name: picnic. Where did this tasty morsel of a word come from?
In French, piquer means "to peck," as a bird does when eating. Nique means "something trivial" or "a trifle." Both words, combined with the fact that they rhyme, create a playful, happy-sounding portmanteau2020欧洲杯时间: a word made from two others mashed together.
Pique-nique2020欧洲杯时间 first appeared in French in 1692, referring to a fancy restaurant dinner where everyone in the group brought their own bottles of wine. The word kept that meaning of a meal where every guest contributes a bottle or dish, but soon gained the additional sense of taking place outside, always with a connotation of elegance and leisure. This was not a farmer's humble outdoor lunch, but an elaborate feast hosted and attended by affluent people, often as part of a day of hunting on a lavish estate.
After the French Revolution, when the royal parks opened to the public, picnics became hugely popular activities on summer weekends and holidays, and regular folks took to casual outdoor dining — almost always during the daytime — with gusto. Whatever the size of the gathering, the emphasis was always on a pot luck approach.
Picnic's first appearance in English — with that spelling — came in 1748, with a description involving social drinking and card-playing, and in 1815, picnic was first used as a verb. In nineteenth-century America, landscape painters in the Hudson River School often included picnickers in the foregrounds of their work to add a sense of scale and civilization to the natural vistas. Thomas Cole's The Pic-Nic2020欧洲杯时间, painted in 1846, is a prime example.
Something that's easy, requiring no effort, can be called a picnic — this sense first appeared in 1886 — and it's also commonly used in the negative to describe a difficult task, as in "Cleaning up that mess is going to be no picnic." A picnic basket was first so named in 1857, and the ever-popular picnic table appeared in 1926, though it was not the classic wooden design seen today in parks everywhere, but a portable folding version. And, appropriately, the upper part of a pork shoulder is often known as a picnic ham, because it's much smaller than a back leg and thus more portable.
"There are few things so pleasant as a picnic2020欧洲杯时间 eaten in perfect comfort." — W. Somerset Maugham
2020欧洲杯时间We're running down the origins of some summer-related words. Here are a few more:
After 20 years as a painter, Peter Barrett escaped the art world for the wilds of upstate New York, where he took up cooking, gardening, photography, and writing. In addition to regularly contributing "News" and "Just for Fun" content for sheffieldwind.com, he writes for his own blog and several magazines. When he's not cooking or writing about cooking, he plays a lot of guitar and tends a vegetable garden that's visible from space.Click here to read other articles by Peter Barrett
- Rate this article: