• ratatouille •
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: A vegetable stew, originating in Nice, consisting of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, prepared in or with olive oil. Recipe here.
Notes: French borrowings that have not been assimilated into English usually sound beautiful to English ears. Today's Good Word, however, sounds a little facetious due to its similarity to rat-a-tat-tat, the onomatopoetic word for the sound of a machine gun. So facetious it is, in fact, that the Disney Corporation used this word as the title of its feature cartoon that attempts to extend the cuteness of Mickey Mouse to rats. (Wonder why Walt himself preferred mice?)
In Play: This word is arcane enough that the subtitle of the Disney film is a pronunciation guide for the title: Ratatouille (Rat-a-too-ee). However, the dish is delicious when properly created, so its name should be more popular: "If you aren't busy tonight, why not pop over to my place and I'll throw a little ratatouille together."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a blend of French ratouiller "to disturb, shake" and tatouiller "to stir". Tatouiller is a repetitive alteration of touiller "to stir, mix", the descendant of Latin tudiculare, a verb built up from tudicula, a machine for bruising olives. Tudicula is the diminutive of tudes "hammer", that is, "a small hammer". The same French touiller was lured into English some centuries ago to toil away as the English word toil. (Today's Good Word was suggested by Sal McGundy, a chef who could whip up a ratatouille in no time flat.)
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