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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.


Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

So "steamed" » "steamed vegetables" » "vegetables" » "vegetables and other non-milkhik non-fleishikh foods" ?

And then there's the [at least contemporary Judeo-English] variant pronunciations... i always heard parva growing up... parv and pariv just sound wrong to me.

Monday, June 19, 2006 7:17:00 AM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...


The second vowel in parev isn't necessarily strengthening my idea - after all, such vowels do pop up here and there -, but it points in the direction of parowe more than to Latin parvum, Persian parbar and the like.

I'm not sure, but I suspect the ending vowel of par(e)ve was dropped rather late, maybe on United States soil.

Monday, June 19, 2006 8:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In defense of my poor Latin parva, it isn't necessarily the *Jews* who would have used it originally. They might have gone to a non-Jewish baker to buy bread (aka pas palter). A baker would have different sorts of bread available, but his Jewish clientele would not be able to buy his pastries and cakes. The only thing they could buy was plain bread - panis parva.(1)

And if you wonder why Jews would use Latin, let me point out that these purchases would typically be made as the Jews walked home after their morning officium divinum(2) and in the expectation that they would eat, be satisfied, and offer a benedictio post mensam.(3)

(1) Well, I didn't say they were good at Latin.
(2) Davenen shacharis.
(3) Bentsh.

Sunday, June 25, 2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...

And about that Latin - certainly Jews did use Latin while livin in a fitting time and region, but as I never heard of "panis parva" being in use among non-Jews either.

The origin of davenen is still very unclear, and this explanation, rather from Old French or such like ben(t)shen, isn't exactly more convincing than others.

Otherwise you're right, of course: It wouldn't have to be an "inner-Jewish" word.

Monday, June 26, 2006 2:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe all these derivations are bunk. The word comes from the chamber of that name in the Beis Hamikdash, which was between two levels of sanctity. The gemara (in Yuma IIRC) says it was named after a Persian magus who either (Machloket Rashi and Tosfos here) donated the money to build it or tried to break into it.

And the word is prounced (judging by the spelling in the Gemarra aas well as my great grandmother Par-uh-vah

Thursday, February 01, 2007 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Lady-Light said...

My grandmothers pronounced it "par-eh-veh;" one was Romainian and the other Polish.
I tend towards the derivation being the Polish word for steamed, "parowe , as it makes sense: the Jewish people sojourned in Eastern Europe for a thousand years, which shaped Ashkenazic language and culture.
Me, I like stami myself; it's
לא זה ולא זה-רק סתם!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 3:16:00 PM  

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