Julia Child and the Mouseburger

“So, can we go somewhere and talk?” asked C.J.

“Sure.”

He didn’t say somewhere quiet, I realized, as he pulled into the In-N-Out Burger near LAX.

It’s the 100th anniversary of Julia Child’s birth, I realized. What more appropriate way to celebrate – okay, appropriate and affordable – than to enjoy a meal at her favorite fast-food chain? Was it really her favorite, as I had heard? I did a quick search. According to Wikipedia, she wasn’t the only celebrity chef to fall under its spell. Add Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, and Mario Batali to the list.

Might as well go for the whole enchilada, I thought, in a metaphorical mélange, as I ordered a double-double burger. C.J. did me one better, though, by ordering a 3×3 and Animal Style fries off the secret menu.

I still didn’t know why we were here. He said he had a proposition for me. I had to assume that meant a business deal; he’d mentioned a girlfriend, after all, but he was taking his time making his intentions clear.

“So, the word hamburger must come from Hamburg, Germany; right?” he asked.

“Uh-huh. Chopped meat patties have been popular in lots of places, but Hamburg was known for its spiced version. When large numbers of Germans immigrated to the U.S. in the 19th century, people started calling the patties Hamburg steaks or Hamburger steaks, which was later shortened to hamburger. The bun was an American addition in the early 20th century.”

“Obviously cheeseburger is a blend or portmanteau word. You’re not going to tell me there’s a town in Luxemburg called Cheeseburg.”

“No. And that goes for all the other imaginative concoctions like chickenburger, mooseburger, nutburger, soyaburger, vegeburger and lamburger, which is not to be confused with Limburger. Limburg is a town in Belgium.”

“What about mouseburger?”

“Ewww!” I said. “Oh! You’ve been reading the obituary of the redoubtable Helen Gurley Brown, of Cosmopolitan fame. I don’t know whether she coined mouseburger, but she certainly popularized the term for, as the OED Online puts it: ‘a young woman of unexceptional appearance and talents, regarded as timid, dowdy, or mousy; (originally) such a person who can nevertheless achieve professional and personal success through determination.’”

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Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
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One Response to Julia Child and the Mouseburger

  1. Jane Boursaw says:

    Mouseburger! I have not heard that term, but like the word connection better than the actual mouse-burger connection. :-)

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