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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:44 pm

• sommelier •

Pronunciation: sê-mêl-yayHear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The wine steward of a luxury restaurant, usually an expert on wines.

Notes: Today's Good Word was borrowed so recently from French that it still retains the French pronunciation. It has not had time to propagate, either, and so remains a lexical orphan without relatives. Exclusive restaurants have sommeliers; others have wine stewards.

In Play: The job of the sommelier, of course, is to help the customer match the wine with his meal: "The sommelier was so good at his job that he could tell by the look in Redmond's eyes that he was in desperate need of a glass of California Cabernet Sauvignon." However, since only the poshest of restaurants have sommeliers, you cannot separate the connotation of classiness from this word: "Malcolm poured the oil into the engine of his Jaguar as adroitly as a sommelier in a Parisian restaurant might pour a glass of Pinot Noir."

Word History: We noted that janitor is a lowly job with a celestial title. Well, that of a sommelier is a celestial job of lowly origins. No, the title doesn't reflect the inattentiveness of some sommeliers (sommeil means "sleepy" in French). Rather, it is an alteration of sommerier "packhorse driver", a noun derived from sommier "beast of burden". French inherited sommier from Vulgar (street) Latin saumarius, itself a corruption of sagmarius "packhorse", based on Greek sagma "packsaddle". Sumpter "packhorse driver" is a variant of the same word. Fort Sumter, without the P, where the US Civil War began April 12, 1861, was named for General Thomas Sumter, whose name shares the same origin. (Today we toast Miriam Brown for suggesting this most delicious sip of English vocabulary.)
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Grand Panjandrum
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Postby Slava » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:12 am

I should imagine a truly well-educated sommelier would be well-versed in vindemiation.

I must also say that I'm glad this one's not been Americanized. Wouldn't it end up coming out as "smellier"?
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:28 pm

Unfortunately I have not the funds to visit a
restaurant employing a sommelier.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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