Mangeurs de lard, used in both English and Canadian French, were literally pork-eaters. Both terms are now-obsolete insults spoken by established local residents of Canada’s northlands and directed against any arriving newcomers to the North, for example, through-passing voyageurs who depended on pork-fat rations carried in their canoes, with the implication that these “soft” new arrivals to the Canadian North could not live off the land like those hardy souls who had already settled an area.
The term pork-eaters served as a put-down among the grizzled old interior trappers of the Northwest Company. These tough veterans of lonely canoe routes through interior country scorned new employees of the company who had to paddle only the canoe routes between Montreal and Grand Prairie. These young beginners lived “high off the hog” on salt pork rations, unlike the interior hunters who ate rougher fare like pemmican. So voyageurs came in two classes: raw beginners were pork-eaters or mangeurs de lard, while seasoned veterans were winterers or hivernants in Canadian French. In explorer John Franklin’s 1823 Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 1820, 1821, and 1822 is this little note: “There is a pride amongst ‘Old Voyageurs’ which makes them consider being frost-bitten as effeminate, and only excusable in a ‘Pork-Eater,’ or one newly come into the north country.”
Another Canadian Term for Newcomer — Are You A Cheechako?
Ever thought of heading to northern Alberta’s tomorrow country, the tar sands? When you arrive, you’ll be a cheechako. Prospectors heading north to the Klondike gold rush of 1898 brought this Pacific coast word for ‘greenhorn’ or ‘newcomer’ with them and it is still is wide use throughout Canada’s far north. Cheechako is Chinook Jargon, chee ‘new’ + chako ‘come.’ The term was introduced into Canadian English by the popularity of Robert W. Service’s books of frontier poetry, especially Songs of a Sourdough (1907) and Ballads of a Cheechako (1909).
Some slang directed at new Canadians is racist and ugly. If you want to explore a few of these abusive terms, click here to go to my page examining racist slang of Canada.
The lively slang of Canadian history is fun to review, but just as interesting is the very word food. Food is one of the blunt, stark Saxon words that strike like monosyllabic hammers on the metal of an English sentence. It was foda in Old English or Anglo-Saxon, akin to the verb fedan.
Food for animals, fodder, comes from the same root. So too does foster, a frequentative form whose prime and sensuous meaning is to feed frequently, hence to nourish, to rear. It finally gives us a noun like foster child. By the way, the same Indo-European root *pa that shows up in Germanic languages as food and Futter gives the Latin pabulum for animal fodder or feed, akin to the Latin word for bread, panis, and to other English words borrowed from Latin like pastor, pasture, and repast, which have nourishment as their basic idea. As you can learn on another page of this website, Pablum™, a well-known Canadian baby food, was named after Roman horse feed, as a joke.
Two grain-grinding mills in front of a Roman oven in which panis (Roman bread) was baked. The street is much as it stood in 79 CE when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the town of Pompeii.
In three of my other books I have collected Canadian folk expressions, some of which have to do with food and eating. I heard a farmer near Morrisburg, Ontario, scolding a young hired hand who had made an error operating a tractor. He said, “I swear, boy, I’ve seen more brains in a sucked egg.” The practice of sticking a finger through the top of a fresh egg and sucking out the yolk and the white has largely disappeared from rural Canadian eating habits. But the expression still makes a potent comic insult. So does this old summertime grabber from the Canadian prairies: Her cooking is so bad, the houseflies are taking up a collection to mend the hole in the screen door of the kitchen!
© 2012 William Gordon Casselman
If you enjoyed this, check out samples from my book,
Gold Medal Winner,
Culinary Book of the Year Award
from Cuisine Canada
“A glorious, informative, and funny collection of food-related definitions and stories!”
Marion Kane, food editor, Toronto Star
“Even readers who are unlikely to fry a doughnut in seal blubber oil will enjoy this latest romp by writer and broadcaster Bill Casselman . . . he mixes in so much entertaining information and curious Canadian lore.”
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Do you know that fine Canadian dish, Son-of-a-Bitch-in-a-Sack? It’s a real Alberta chuck wagon pudding. In this fully illustrated, 304-page romp, Bill tells the amusing stories behind such hearty Canadian fare as gooeyducks and hurt pie. The juicy lore and tangy tales of foods that founded a nation are all here: from scrunchins to rubbaboo, from bangbelly to poutine, from Winnipeg jambusters to Nanaimo bars , from Malpeque oysters to nun’s farts! If you think foods of Canadian origin are limited to pemmican and pea soup, you need to dip your ladle into the bubbling kettle of Canadian Food Words.
Canadian Food Words: The Juicy Lore and Tasty Origins of Foods that Founded a Nation
304 pages, illustrated
Canadian Food Words is in print and available to order at any book store in the world, no matter what misinformation may be presented on book store computers. All my books are in print.
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