• mincemeat •
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. Chopped fruit and nuts mixed with spices, sometimes with rum or brandy, often used as a pie filling. 2. Finely chopped or ground meat, minced meat. 3. Tiny bits of anything, complete destruction, as to make mincemeat of someone's vase or argument.
Notes: Have you ever noticed, as did today's recommender, that mincemeat pie contains no meat? Today's Word History will explain why that is. Mincemeat pies, quite popular in the English-speaking world, today contain highly spiced, finely chopped dried fruit and nuts.
In Play: This good word comes to us from the vocabulary of culinary art: "I love any kind of dessert, but my favorite is mincemeat pie." It may be used hyperbolically to indicate total destruction: "My cellphone makes mincemeat of conversations. I guess I need a new one."
Word History: Meat originally referred to all kinds of "food", and that sense has been retained in mincemeat and the phrase "meat and drink". This sense was narrowed to "meat" around 1300. A similar narrowing of meaning occurred in French viande "meat", originally "food". Mince is from Old French mincier "to chop into small bits", from Vulgar (Street) Latin minutiare "make small, reduce". This word comes from Late Latin minutiae "small bits", derived from Latin minutus "small, minute", the past participle of minuere "to lessen, reduce". The root of all these words was originally mein- "small". It appears again in Russian men'she "less, fewer", which went into the making of Menshevik "member of a minority party". In Latin it emerged in minister "an inferior, a servant" and, in French, in menu. (We must thank Diane Ament for noticing that mincemeat pie contains no meat, which led her to recommend today's Good Word.)
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