Daily Archives: March 3, 2009

pesto

This word comes to us from Italian, of course (Ligurian, to be precise), but it has gradually attained citizenship in our language. Its form still seems Italian, though we might note that if kid can become kiddo and boy can become boyo, then if the kid or boy is being a pest this word could be formed, aside from the dissonance between the tone of pest and the chumminess of the -o suffix. At any rate, this word seems, through the sapidity of its object, to have avoided taking on too much of the negative tone that pest could have given it. One might as soon think of pestle – after all, one could use a mortar and pestle to make pesto. Such a pity the words aren’t related: pesto‘s Latin source is pistum, past participle of pinsere “pound, crush,” whereas pestle‘s Latin forebear is pilum “shaft, stake, javelin.” This word can also call forth the st in taste due to the realm of reference, and of course those Thom(p)son twins of Italian cuisine, pasta and antipasto (which, like Thompson and Thomson – a.k.a. Dupond and Dupont – are not related, in spite of appearances). Other fainter hints include best and pistol. Anagrams include estop and poets. But the object, a sauce of nuts (typically pine nuts), herbs (typically basil), cheese, garlic, and olive oil, can top whatever taste the word may bring.

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