Thursday, August 2, 2018

Language of Confusion: File, Part II

Yes, the long awaited sequel that really wasn’t that long after and none of you were waiting for. It’s here!

Did you know that there are two different spellings for this word? Because I did not. They’re related, as filet showed up in 1841 in cooking, and it was taken from the French word filet, which they had already taken in the fourteenth century as fillet. Could not make this up. They’re both from the Old French filet, thread or strip, and the verb form originally meant to bind with a narrow band. And the reason we call a cut of meat a fillet is because it was hung up on strings. Just like files. Which makes sense since it’s from file.

Does anyone even use this word? I know I’ve heard it (it’s ornate wires, or fancy things in general), although I can’t think of the last time I did. It showed up in the late seventeenth century, but it was actually a shortening of the word filigreen, which showed up in the mid seventeenth century from the French filigrane. Before that it was the Italian filigrana, which was taken from the classical Latin filum, which means wire and we talked about during the File post. Since filigree relates to wires, this makes sense! Until you find out that the green/grane part of it comes from granum, grain. Wire grain. That… makes less sense.

What? Fiber is really related? Yes, it is. It showed up in the late fourteenth century as fibre, meaning entrails or a lobe of the liver. It comes from the Medieval Latin fibre, and classical Latin fibra, which could mean fiber, but also entrails. It’s origin is actually uncertain, but it’s thought to be from filum. I mean, intestines are kind of string like…



  1. I've used filigree before, but you're right, not a word one hears often.
    Getting fiber in your diet has nothing to do with entrails...

  2. Good, now I know that no matter how I write it down, I am not misspelling filet.

  3. Yes, filigree is definitely a word that sees very little use.

  4. Lots of hanging up of things. But with no food preservation in refrigerators and the like, that may have been necessary.

    Filigree comes out a lot in interior decor and such. So, the word doesn't seem so out there to me.

  5. How interesting. I always thought a fillet was a specific piece of meat. Like a chicken fillet is that little flap behind the breast. Guess I'm wrong.


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