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Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:42 pm
by Dr. Goodword

• chartreuse •

Pronunciation: shahr-truz, shahr-trusHear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. An pale apple-green liqueur. 2. A pale apple-green color. 3. A dish composed of various fruits, vegetables, or meat enclosed in gelatin. 4. A bluish-gray domestic cat.

Notes: The liqueur recipe dates from early 17th century, originally marketed as Les Pères Chartreux "the Fathers Chartreuse". The color is so called from resemblance to the pale apple-green hue of the liqueur. How the other two meanings emerged in anyone's guess, but they are probably related to the mountains near Grenoble (see Word History).

In Play: The two most popular senses of today's Good Word are the first two, the liqueur and the color: "Do you feel alright? I think you're drinking too much chartreuse; you're beginning to take on its color." We must not forget the third meaning, still used in some cookbooks: "The main course was a chartreuse of vegetables and game, which set everyone's eyes aglaze and raised their stomachs in a borborygmic choir."

Word History: Today's word is an eponym of the Grande-Chartreuse, chief monastery of the Chartreuse (= English Carthusian) order, which was founded in the 11th century. It was named Chartreuse for the mountain group in the French Alps near Grenoble, where its first monastery was built. This word was adopted and adapted as English chartrous in the 17th century. It then underwent folk etymology and came out charterhouse, the English word for a Carthusian monastery in London at the time. This word carried over to the Charterhouse hospital, built upon the site of the Charterhouse monastery. That hospital is now one of the great English schools, the Charterhouse School. (Let's all now toast Monika Freund with a glass of chartreuse for suggesting today's very Good Word that comes with such an intricate history.)


Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:38 am
by MTC
Yes, very interesting about the etymology of the four senses of Chartreuse. Dr. G has covered the first two. I have tracked down the etymology of the controversial fourth sense, the cat. Here is what I have found about how the Chartreuse Cat got its name:

"There is a legend that the Chartreux are descended from cats brought to France by Carthusian monks to live in the order's head monastery, the Grande Chartreuse, located in the Chartreuse Mountains north of the city of Grenoble (Siegal 1997:27). But in 1972, the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse denied that the monastery's archives held any records of the monks' use of any breed of cat resembling the Chartreux (Simonnet 1990:36–37). Legend also has it that the Chartreux's ancestors were feral mountain cats from what is now Syria, brought back to France by returning Crusaders in the 13th century, many of whom entered the Carthusian monastic order."

Investigating further into the shadowy recesses of the Net, I uncovered another more colorful account:

It seems as previously reported Crusaders did indeed return from the Crusades with a then-unknown species of cat which for reasons unrecorded they donated to the Carthusian monks at the Grand Chartreuse monastery. The monks soon began to breed the beautiful, grey cats, but did not immediately give them a name. That came about in a most unusual way. According to legend, one of the Crusaders returned to the monastery late one night on horseback under the disorienting influence of Chartreuse, the powerful liqueur made famous by the monks. Mistaking the monastery for a 'chat de la maison,' ("cat house," or house of ill repute) the knight bellowed at the gates, "Where is my beautiful little 'chat' (slang for woman of the night)?" When the knight received no reply, he shouted even louder. Outraged, the red-eyed Abbot who had been summoned from a sound sleep shouted down from the walls, "Sir knight, you are gravely mistaken. This is the Chartreuse Monastery. We have cats, but not the kind you seek in your lustful stupor." "Liar!" the knight erupted in a stentorian if slurred voice, "Call her a 'Chartreuse Chat,' call her what you will, but bring me my little 'chat'!" "And so you shall have your little 'Chartreuse chat,' Sir Knight," replied the Abbot, spitefully tossing one of the cats along with a full chamber-pot over the monastery wall onto the drunken knight to his understandable disappointment. This ungodly drama, broadcast as it were at peak volume in the middle of the night, could not escape notice. Word spread, and ever since then the unusual grey cats bred at the monastery have been known in France somewhat irreverently as "Chartreuse Chats." After the Norman Conquest the English borrowed the expression, Anglicizing "chats" to "cats." Some linguists have speculated the same incident may also have inspired the saying, "All cats are grey at night."



Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:20 pm
by LukeJavan8
Cats as Carthusian monks is and interesting concept, the
chief of which would most likely be the cat-abbot.


Posted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:42 am
by bamaboy56
MTC said
Some linguists have speculated the same incident may also have inspired the saying, "All cats are grey at night."
Very interesting concept about the Chartreuse cat! MTC's comment brought back a fond memory. When I was living in Chile years ago, there was a common saying that, translated, stated "At night all cats are black". This was always used in reference to, regardless of whether a woman was attractive or not, when the lights were off they were all the same. :oops: :shock: Never heard this saying used in reference to men. In fairness, the same could be said of men (but what can I say? Chile is a macho country). Nice to know that at night cats can be grey, too!


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:10 am
by Philip Hudson
I have read that Benjamin Franklin, quoting that all cats are black in the night, applied it to la femme.


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:21 am
by Philip Hudson
II am particularly drawn to the definition of chartreuse as a color. Why is it that, while every woman knows the colors chartreuse, mauve, taupe, etc., no man does, or at least doesn’t admit to it. For myself, I know a lot of words for colors but have no idea what the colors look like. My wife says I am colorblind. Actually I am color illiterate and oblivious. I would like to hear some female and male takes on colors, especially colors with odd names.


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:15 pm
by Perry Lassiter
I'm pretty much with Phillip. I dig the primary and secondary colors, but much beyond that I have to work at it. I have tried, mostly through the decks of Crayolas we've had with kids and grandkids, but commercial interests don't stick to those. I can see the difference on a chart or purple, violet, and blue violet, but show me a color in isolation....? And how does one distinguish between maroon, wine, mauve, etc.? My mind may have been stupefied as a teen when I picked up a fallen lipstick off the school driveway labeled "sky-blue pink," and no girl I asked batted an eye!


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:21 pm
by bamaboy56
Having been employed in a textile firm for many years now, it feels like I've seen just about every color there is. There are some unusual ones out there, though. I admit I know maroon, wine and mauve when I see them (they're all in the red family). Try this website ( to see the top ten unusual colors according to Webster. I knew only four of the ten on the list. It may sound geeky but I like colors. Don't really care for the names used by some manufacturers, though. Crayola and cosmetic companies put names on some of their products that make no sense. Take a look at nail polish colors to see what I mean. Just saying.


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:56 pm
by LukeJavan8
Seems my avatar has disappeared.
Anyone know how to get it back on???


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:59 pm
by Slava
As a color, do you agree with me that chartreuse is what I call "new green"? Meaning the fresh green of leaves and grass of spring? Would we also go so far as to label as "neon chartreuse" the color of summer-wear for construction and road workers?


Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:15 pm
by Slava
Seems my avatar has disappeared.
Anyone know how to get it back on???
I know what happened, but I don't know how to fix it. Your avatar was on a picture site I had. They sold out to someone else and did not tell me. Neither did they carry over permissions for use. I cannot access my own pictures anymore. Scum. This means all other posts I made using this so-called service no longer exist.

If you and saparris, who was also part of this deal, need to, please send me a PM, or direct e-mail, with your avatar attached. As I did for bamaboy, I will format it to the proper size, and then all you have to do is put it in as an attachment to your profile. I hope.

Slava, who often hates the Internot.


Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:35 pm
by LukeJavan8
Hey, thanks a lot.
I don't totally understand how all this happened, but I
really appreciate the explanation. I will write saparris
and explain the same to him, as I suppose his is gone too.
I will make every attempt to email you the avatar, and
appreciate your effort. If it does not work I can always
change it to something else.
I do, however, need your email address again, as after our
last bit of conversation, I deleted it, so as to never raise
suspicion of "hacking" or whatever. And as a respect for
You can PM it to me and I will try to send a pic, I am not
very good at that sort of thing.
Thanks again.