Historical Trivia and the Origins of Barbeque

One of my favorite words is factoid.

If you're like most people out there, and you just go along to get along, I'm gonna bet that you think the definition is something like a little-known, interesting fact or tidbit. Well, I by no means, consider myself a scholar, but I remember my Daddy comin' home from work, sometime in the mid-seventies, talkin' about some yahoo, name of Ted Turner, who did a piece on a show and used factoid as a tid-bit of information. "Ruination of the English language", I can remember him muttering! So, I went and looked it up. I do that...a lot. Got a whole library, now!

Just so's you know, a factoid is a piece of erroneous or incorrect information, that gets spread and repeated so often, that people believe it to be true! Thus, a factoid about the word factoid is, itself, a factoid! Ain't that something?

So, ever since then, I've tried to be kinda careful about how I use words. English teacher of mine, when I was in grammar school, came up with a pretty saying I remember, too. He said, "Bobby, words are the tools and language is a skill. But communication...that's an art." I kinda' liked that.

Anyway, what's that got to do with barbecue? Well, seems all kind of folk want to know where the word comes from, 'cuz it's not as easy as grill.

The word barbecue sounds funny, so it must be foreign. If it's foreign, it must be French. Plus we associate it with the Southern states, like Louisiana, which, as I recall from my fifth grade history, used to be sort of French. But we like to blur the lines just a little more, like that friend of a friend that told you he heard someone who said that thing you can't quite remember...so the story goes somethin' like this.

Way back when, French sailors in the Caribbean saw a pig being cooked whole in a pit and reportedly described the method of cooking as barbe à queue, meaning from beard to tail. More likely, it was just part of the description, because they were somehow awed that anyone might eat more than the hams with their oeuvres! The French, being clever and all, use the same word for barbecue as we do now, so I guess Steve Martin was wrong when he said "those French have a different word for everything!" . But word historians, etymologists, they're called, say that beard to tail tale, just ain't so. Just because it sounds close, don't necessarily make it so...it's just a common thread in folk-etymology explanations. Almost as bad as explanations for cuss words that say they're acronyms...guess again or look it up. I did!

Now, on account of us Americans likin' barbecue so well and kinda takin' it as our own, another claim is that the word barbecue comes from the acronym BBQ, supposedly from roadhouses and beer joints with pool tables that advertised "Bar, Beer and Cues".

Dumbest thing I ever heard! What kinda' bar needs to advertise that it has beer? And I've never been to one that had a swimmin' pool inside, so I don't even know why you'd say "cues" instead of "pool". "Think I'll ride my hog on down to the no-beer-servin' roadhouse for a nice cool lemonade and a game of cues, tonight. You comin'?" According to this fairy tale, the phrase was shortened over time to BBCue, then BBQ, using IFFY (pronounced "iffy") - Inaccurate False and Foolish Yammering. Maybe that'll catch on...but I doubt it!

So, all you can get out of the above is the correct spelling of the word, barbecue, (and yes, I know what the title of my blog is, and that's 'cuz so many people misspell it!) and some cool stuff to tell your friends and neighbors, while you're standing around the barbecue pit, burnin' somethin'!
The actual origins of both the activity of barbecue cooking and the word itself are, as you guessed, not so clear cut. Most etymologists believe that barbecue derives ultimately from the word barabicu found in the language of both the Timucua of Florida and the Taíno people of the Caribbean, which then entered European languages in the form barbacoa. The word translates as sacred fire pit, and describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks.
So, now that you understand that what you been doin' in the name of barbecue, is actually the desecration of the sacred fire pit, maybe you're ready to learn how to barbecue and earn the admiration of your friends and neighbors and maybe even win back your wife's love, by not messin' up another get-together and learnin' how to barbecue the right way...the Bubba Q way!
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