Americans who were teenagers in the early 1960s probably remember a dance called the mashed potato. If English could give a dance that strange name, then Spanish had as much right to call one the merengue. Spanish merengue originally meant (and still does) the same as English meringue, namely ‘a dessert made from whipped egg whites and sugar.’ Spanish and English independently took the name for the dessert from French méringue, a word of uncertain origin, though there has been no lack of hypotheses among linguists investigating French etymology. As for merengue the dance, perhaps its movements were seen as resembling those involved in the beating of egg whites; after all, people have perceived weirder resemblances between one thing and another than that (just take a look at constellations and the names different cultures have given them).

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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