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Monday, June 19, 2006


DLC writes about several proposed etymologies of the word parve, meaning 'neither considered dairy nor meat in Jewish dietary laws'. He writes:

the "correct" answer isn't really what interests me this time. What this really shows is just how interesting etymology can be - to the point that everyone wants to come up with a possible answer

Welcome back to the seventies. :-) But lets go from the ideal of parve discussions to a discussion of parve.

There are answers that are more, and others that are less possible, or plausible. They are between nice and nonsense, but my vote clearly goes to 'steamed'. I didn't know others had ideas at least in this direction, though the meaning isn't connected to the fact that steam doesn't have a taste. I think it's much easier:

1. Polish parowe (where w is pronounced v) means 'steamy', 'steam-'. As all adjectives in the neutral gender, it can actually mean '(the) steam stuff'. I wouldn't even go so far as to claim it means 'cooked in steam, neither with butter, nor with lard'. Just 'steamed (sc. vegetables)'. I concede that the usual word for 'steamed' is rather parowany or duszony ('braised'), but the difference in preference is even less than between English steamed vegetables and steam vegetables.

2. It fits the Polish way of preparing vegetables, rather not raw.

3. According to my knowledge, the word came into use exactly there, that is in Polish speaking regions. Even Litvakes have a word of their own, bur! Western Yiddish doesn't know the word parve, but uses minnich.

Sefardic regions don't know it either, it's simply neither kezo nor karne. Also in halachic literature still just a couple of centuries ago, one finds only paraphrases like dogem virokes/dagim virakot ('fish and vegetables'), and sometimes it's simply called "fish". (As if British chareidim would say fish 'n' chips instead of parve.)

The Israeli word stami is a modern coinage, of course.

Some of the deductions from Hebrew are so פֿארפֿעטשט, I'm afraid they're ideologically motivated. And why should Jews use a Latin term just because we are familiar with it from Christian bible scholarship (Masorah parva)? Anyway, "poor bread", that's matzes to us, not parve bread. In fact, if one knows the law, one would understand that nearly all kosher bread, rich or poor, is parve, and only under certain circumstances is it allowed to bake or eat bread that isn't.

Yes, párový in Czech does mean "coming in pairs, twin", but the connexion in sense is very forced. Also, the word appears later only in Yiddish, and I'm not aware of a Polish word parowy meaning 'pairwise'. (As an aside, Slavic par(a) might be taken from German rather than directly from Latin.)

Pareil - why only in the East, how does the word get its present form, where's the similarity in meaning? Je regrette.