What's in a Word | All Blogs

Shaken, not stirred

By Debra Dobbins

My ever-frugal father frequently volunteered to cook lunch on Sunday, his only day off. Dad didn’t obsess over the menu; he simply rummaged in the refrigerator for leftovers and threw them all together into a frying pan or pot. (As Mom as my witness, I am not making this up.) To cope with Slumgullion Sundays, my siblings and I would often wangle lunch invitations from friends.

Perhaps if Dad had called his slumgullion hochepot, his ungrateful children may have found it easier to swallow, but the only foreign language Dad knew was German, which is what he spoke at home while growing up. It wasn’t until going to school that he learned English.

At any rate, hochepot in early French meant “a stew of many foods cooked together in a pot,” according to Merriam Webster’s Word Central. “Perhaps the pot was shaken instead of stirred since hochepot was formed from hochier, meaning ‘to shake,’ and pot, which had the same meaning in early French as it does in English now,” the online site also notes.

Hochepot in early French became hogpotch in Middle English, according to Webster’s, and then evolved to hotchpotch. Eventually, the “tch” blend in both syllables of the word morphed into “dge” to form hodgepodge. The word’s definition subsequently was broadened to mean a jumble or a confused mixture.

A hodgepodge of pots and pans
Photo special to the Sentinel



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