For this week’s suppers, I made a version of paella – though, since I used a nonstick electric pan, I suppose I should call it electric paella, or maybe something else, like electric barbarella. I make one dish on Sunday to last a few days, and don’t worry, I didn’t use any seafood in it (paella doesn’t have to have seafood). But I did use chorizo. Because of course I did.

There are two things no one seems to know about chorizo: what’s in it, and how to say it. I’m not going to get too far into the first – it has pork and paprika and usually garlic and lots of other good things, varying widely through the many places it’s made, but come on, it’s a sausage. But I will spend a moment on the second.

Let me start by saying that chorizo is not an Italian word. The ch is not said like “k,” and the z is by no means to be said as it would be in Italian. No, it’s a Spanish word. And the letter z in Spanish words offers multiple levels of opportunity for English speakers to be pretentious or at least self-conscious. First, in the Americas, we know – or should know – that in Latin American Spanish, z is said like “s” everywhere all the time. But second, those who know about European Spanish know that in the standard variety, z is said like “th” as in “thin” everywhere all the time. (There are stories about how this came to be, but I have the sense they’re about as reliable as the ingredient list on a package of sausages.) So you can say /t͡ʃoˈɾiso/ or you can say /t͡ʃoˈɾiθo/.

Or you can be an English speaker speaking yet another word we’ve long since stolen from another language and say it like an English word, with the z sounding like “z”: /t͡ʃəˈɹi.zoʊ/. Yeah, yeah, we know the source of the word and it’s right there and we can try to honour that source, but have you stopped and taken a look at all the different places English words come from? Our language’s vocabulary is like if someone bought a full lunch from every establishment in a food court and dumped them all into the same big shopping bag. So if you say chorizo with the z as “z” there are other things to feel bad about (especially if you eat the whole shoppingbagfull). It’s better than trying to say it as though it were from a language it’s not even from, anyway.

Here, listen to my butcher say it (and several other things):

Speaking of where it’s from, though… Yeah, this is a Spanish word; it has a Portuguese cognate, chouriço, as well as equivalents in Catalan (xoriço), Galician (chourizo), and Basque (txorizo; yes, an unrelated language, but it’s right there). But since it’s present throughout Iberia, it must come from Latin… right?

Yeah, probably, in the same way as a chorizo comes from a pig. What I have in my paella doesn’t oink or have a curly tail, and the word chorizo doesn’t look a whole lot like salsicia, yet the package label (i.e., the etymologies in available sources) would have us believe that’s the source, um, probably. It may have come via a medial Portuguese souriço, though sources seem to insist that Portuguese chouriço comes from chorizo… hmm. But anyway, salsicia is also the source of Italian salsiccia (clearly), French saucisse, and English sausage. Every one a wiener. (Sorry, not true; couldn’t resist the joke, but it’s not the wurst that could happen either.) And salsicia comes from Latin salsus, which means ‘salted’; that in turn traces back to Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *séh₂ls-, which gives many languages many words for salt and some words for some other things as well. Salsus is also, for reasons of cookery, the source of both salsa and salad.

Which, if you look into your big shopping bag, should also be in there somewhere. How about you throw in some more rice and call it PIE-ella. As long as there’s chorizo, it will be delicious.

4 responses to “chorizo

  1. I’ve spent a good bit of my life in southeastern massachusetts and rhode island where chouriço is locally produced. It is a truly delicious sausage. You may be interested to note that Portuguese speakers in the area seem to lose the final vowel, so this estimable comestible come out like Sha-REESE …like Cyd Charisse. Tasty in her own way, but no good in paella.

    Love your posts, BTW.

  2. Pingback: paella | Sesquiotica

  3. Pingback: Link love: language (76) | Sentence first

  4. The general Spanish word for a sausage is also from “salsicia”, I guess: salchicha.

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