Brussels sprouts

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Brussels sprouts

Post by John Barton » Sun Apr 03, 2005 5:13 am

It seems that about a quarter of the world thinks the capital of Belgium is Brussel. A Google search gives 320,000 hits for 'Brussels sprouts' and 115,000 for the imaginary 'Brussel sprouts'. For New Zealand, 583 'Brussels' and 1010 'Brussel'. So 3 out of 4 kiwis can't spell it. The majority of supermarket labels are wrong, though commercially engraved; even growers who specialise in the vegetable print their boxes without the 5th 's'. What usually happens at this point is they change the dictionaries, or call the correct spelling an obsolete variant. Or they could be fakes, mispelt for legal purposes.
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Apr 03, 2005 6:47 am

I urge everyone to misspell 'mispelt' for legal purposes.
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Apr 03, 2005 8:43 am

John, Interesting. It always comes as a shock when I learn that I’ve been mispronouncing something all of my life (and I do learn that every so often). And I’m embarrassed to say that I’m among the legions of ignorami who pronounce it ‘Brussel sprouts.’ And why do I pronounce it that way? Become that’s the way my mommy pronounced it and I never gave it a second thought. However, if there are as many people mispronouncing it, as the Google search seems to indicate, there is probably some reason, although I’m not suggesting that reason is a justification, and I will heretofore forever more pronounce it BRUSSELS SPROUTS. But I suspect that the reason for the mispronunciation is that ‘Brussels sprouts’ is a bit of a tongue twister to say and some folk’s speech just took the path of least resistance. I'm a big Brussels sprouts fan and eat them on a regular basis and am surprised that I never noticed that the signs in the store spelled it differently (although, as you say, they may be misspelled too) than I pronounced it, but I guess one doesn’t go looking for that sort of thing. I just checked a few dictionaries and cookbooks and I’ll be ding danged if it ain’t spelled as you said! I’ll report back on what the signs say after my next field trip to the market.
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An A-Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto

BRUSSELS SPROUTS [[sometimes capitalized, and sometimes not]]: Firmly ensconced as they now are, brussels sprouts (or ‘sprouts’—or indeed ‘brussels’—for short) seem to be a comparatively recent addition to the British table. The first recorded reference to them comes in Charles Marshall’s Plain and Easy Introduction to Gardening (1796), and their description (‘Brussels sprouts are winter greens growing much like boorcole [kale]’) suggests that they may first have been valued for the tuft of leaves at the top of their tall thick stem rather than the small green buttons growing up it (‘brussel tops’ are still a source of winter greens). The first cookery writer to mention them seems to have been Eliza Acton, who in her Modern Cookery (1845) gives directions for cooking and serving them in ‘the Belgian mode,’ boiled and with melted butter poured over them. But why ‘brussels sprouts’? They seem always to have been popular in Flanders and northern France, and market regulations for the Brussels area as long ago as 1213 mention them, but when the name was actually conferred on them is not clear. The French call them ‘choux de Bruxelles,’ ‘Brussels cabbages.’
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<1796 “BRUSSELS SPROUTS are winter greens growing much like boorcole.”—‘A Plain and Easy Introduction to the Knowledge and Practice of Gardening’ (1813) by C. Marshal, xv. page 224>
(Oxford English Dictionary)
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Ken G – April 2, 2005
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Apr 03, 2005 7:06 pm

Am I the only one who has never heard of the word “boorcole”? Broccoli I knew even before Cubby of that name and his version of James Bond.
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Apr 08, 2005 6:00 am

Bob, BOORCOLE is an alternate spelling of BORECOLE, which most dictionaries define as KALE. Here’s a blurb from a section on the discussion of ‘Brassicas’ (cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, mustards, and related plants) on a respectable-looking gardening history website:

Colonial Williamsburg Gardens http://www.georgetown.u47.k12.me.us/His ... esrch3.cfm

BORECOLE does not appear as a term for this group [[Coleworts, Borecole and Kale]] until the 18th century and may represent varieties of colewort imported from Denmark or Holland. Borecole derives from the Dutch boerenkool or "peasant's cabbage.quot; Parkinson writes in Paradisi in Sol (1629) that the English grow the Ordinary colewort while the others, such as curled, are curiosities grown by the Dutch. The first use of the word in English literature comes from John Arbuthnot's Law is a bottomless pit...in the case of...John Bull (1712): "His children live upon salt herring, sowre crud, and borecole." The first reference in English gardening books that I can find comes from Stephen Switzer's Practical Kitchen Gardener (1727), who writes that there are varieties of borecole "both great, and red, and curl'd on the edges." The term borecole often seems to be used for curled or brown (dark purple) varieties of colewort. Gardiner and Hepburn, in The American Gardener (1804), write that in July you should, "Sow Borecole alias brown Cole" By 1865 Fearing Burr uses Kale and Borecole as synonyms regardless of leaf color or form and says coleworts are obtained from young cabbages.
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My field trip to the supermarkets (four) revealed that both ‘Brussels sprouts’ and ‘Brussel sprouts’ were both used, with Brussels having the edge..

1) Whole Foods: The store sign says Brussel sprouts. Those sold in individual mesh bags say Brussels sprouts.

2) Safeway: Store sign says Brussel sprouts

3) Albertsons: Store sign says Brussels sprouts

4) Wild Oats: Store sign says Brussels sprouts

P.S. Birdseye frozen veggies has Brussels sprouts on the bag.
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Ken G – April 7, 2005
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Apr 08, 2005 7:23 am

In John Bull's quote above, I assume that 'sowre crud' is what we today would call 'sauerkraut', literally 'sour cabbage' or 'sour greens' in German.

In this connection my Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (WNUUD) states that 'crud' began life as a Middle English word between 1325-1375, and was an earlier form of 'curd'. The same source also gives a Middle English (ME) origin for 'curd', one of whose current senses is apparently 'the edible flower heads of cauliflower, broccoli, and similar plants'. 'Curd' is stated as being a variant of the ME verb 'crudden', 'to crud or congeal', with a connection to 'crowd', although nothing I found in the WNUUD etymology for 'crowd' seemed to bear this out; it states that 'crowd' dates from before 950 and existed as Old English 'cruden' and ME 'crowden', both meaning 'to press, hurry'.

The online Merriam-Webster gives a somewhat different account, but one that does appear to establish a sketchy connection:

Middle English 'crouden', from Old English 'crudan'; akin to Middle High German 'kroten', 'to crowd', Old English 'crod', 'multitude', Middle Irish 'gruth', 'curds'.

Sometimes one gets the impression that the various Merriams and Websters are as members of a squabbling tribe who are liable to remember the same event completely differently for no obvious reason.
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Apr 08, 2005 7:59 am

And there was me thinking that “crud” meant uselessly horrid.
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Brussels sprouts

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:06 pm

I had a trip to the Supermarket today, not a single Brussel, all sprouts were Brussels.
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