CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

12 Words English Got from the Aztecs

Original image
ThinkStock

Planning a barbeque this weekend? You can thank the Aztecs for some of the items on your list. A typical Aztec meal from 1519, when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico, would look familiar to lovers of Mexican food today: corn tortillas wrapped around beans, chili, avocado, and tomatoes. In fact, the names of several of these familiar foods come to us from Nahautl, the language of the Aztecs. But cuisine is not the only source of English words with an Aztec background.

1. Chia

“Ch-ch-ch-chia, the pottery that grows!” Remember the Chia Pet? Sorry for reminding you. Chia may be the most annoying word English got from the Aztecs.

Chia, the green “fur” that grows out of the pottery animals, is an annual plant native to Mexico, Salvia hispanica. According to Wikipedia, the word comes from the Nahuatl chian, meaning oily. The present Mexican state of Chiapas received its name from the Nahuatl "chia water" or "chia river."

2.    Coyote

The name of this wolf-like wild dog native to North America (and now a colloquial term for a smuggler of immigrants) entered English in the 18th century, from Mexican Spanish, from Nahuatl coyotl:

"Saw a cayjotte, or wild dog, which in size nearly approached the wolf." — William Bullock, Six months' residence and travels in Mexico, 1824.

3.    Mesquite

Have some mesquite charcoal ready for your Memorial Day barbeque? The name for this spiny tree or shrub of the pea family, native to arid regions of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, entered English in the mid 18th century from Mexican Spanish mezquite, from Nahautl mizquitl:

Another tree which they call a Miskito: it beareth a fruite like vnto a peasecod marueilous sweete, which the wilde people gather and keepe it all the yeere, and eate it in steede of bread. — Richard Hakluyt · The principall navigations, voiages and discoveries of the English nation · 1st edition, 1589

4.    Ocelot

A wild cat, Felis pardalis, having a tawny coat marked with numerous black rings, spots and streaks, and found in forests and scrub from southern Texas to Argentina. The word comes, via French, from Nahuatl tlatlocelotl, literally "field jaguar."

5.    Peyote

The cactus Lophophora williamsii, or a hallucinogenic drug made from it, containing mescaline and used especially in some North American Indian rituals.

Origin: via Spanish peyote, from Nahuatl peyotl. From The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, published in 1913:

We endeavoured further to extend knowledge of pathological mental states by producing mental conditions nearly allied to generally recognized types of insanity... For this purpose we used the Mexican drug [printed drag] pelotte.

6.    Shack

Although this word for a roughly-built cabin or shanty sounds as if it could have come from Old English, the earliest citation for it in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1878. In 1881, the New York Times was still putting quotation marks around the word, indicating it was slang or unfamiliar. The origin is obscure, but it may come from the Mexican Spanish word jacal, from Aztec xacalli, meaning "wooden hut."

7. Tule

Californians, especially those from the Central Valley, are familiar with tule (pronounced TOO-lee) fog, the thick ground fog that makes driving through the Valley a risky proposition in late fall to winter.  Some Californians use the expression “Out in the tules” to mean the boondocks or the sticks. Fewer people know that tule refers to either of two species of bulrush abundant in low lands along riversides in California and hence, a thicket of this, or a flat tract of land in which it grows. The origin is the Nahuatl word tullin.

8.    Tomato

From French, Spanish, or Portuguese tomate, from Nahuatl tomatl.

There was also Indian pepper, beetes, Tomates, which is a great sappy and savourie graine. — José de Acosta · The naturall and morall historie of the East and West Indies (transl. Edward Grimeston) · 1st edition, 1604

9.    Avocado

This word entered English in the mid 17th century, from Nahuatl ahuactl, by way of Spanish aguacate. Because of their shape and bumpy green skin, some people call avocados “alligator pears,” but for the Aztecs, the bulging fruit brought something else to mind. According to Merriam-Webster.com, ahuacatl is short for āhuacacuahuitl, which means "testicle tree" (āhuacatl, "testicle" + cuahuitl, "tree").

10. Chili

This word for hot peppers came into English around 1660 from Spanish chile, which comes from Nahautl chilli.

"Try a chili with it, Miss Sharp," said Joseph, really interested. "A chili," said Rebecca, gasping. "Oh yes!" She thought a chili was something cool, as its name imported. – Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 

11. Guacamole

A dish of mashed avocado mixed with chopped onion, tomatoes, chili peppers, and seasoning. Origin: Latin American Spanish, from Nahuatl ahuacamolli, from ahuacatl, ‘avocado’ + molli, ‘sauce.’

12. Chocolate

"From time to time they brought [the emperor Montezuma], in cup-shaped vessels of pure gold, a certain drink made from cacao, and the women served this drink to him with great reverence.”  — Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico.

The treasure rooms of Montezuma’s palace were filled not with gold, but with cacao beans, the source of chocolate. Unlike today’s bonbons, Aztec chocolatl was a bitter, hot and spicy drink made with ground corn, vanilla, and chilis. Along with golden treasure, the Spanish brought chocolate back to Europe. And the rest is delicious history.

 

Sources: “Salvia hispanica, Wikipedia; “Chocolate,” Oxford Bibliographies; OED [Oxford English Dictionary] Online; New Oxford American Dictionary (Second Ed.); The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fifth ed.); Merriam-Webster.com; Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la Lengua Española; Wood, Tim, The Aztecs.

Original image
Netflix
arrow
entertainment
5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
Original image
Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

arrow
Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios