Burgers to Burghers

“Speaking of burgers, what about the Burghers of Calais?” A jet roared overhead, nearly close enough to part my hair, as C.J. asked the question. I dabbed hamburger juice from my chin.

“Burgers of where?” I asked before my brain slipped into gear. “Oh, of course: Rodin’s sculpture honoring the medieval burghers who sacrificed their freedom to save their city from conquest by England. I knew that. What about them?”

“Well, we know Hamburger means someone or something from Hamburg, like this kind of burger,” indicating his towering stack of beef and cheese. “So what does the –burg part of places like Hamburg, Limburg and Pittsburgh mean? Any relation to burgher, which seems to mean an important person in a town?”

I wiped my greasy fingertips before checking the OED Online on my phone. “Burg in West Germanic, the common ancestor of English and German, meant a fortress or walled town. In English the word became borough, but Scotland used the spelling burgh with an H.”

Edinburgh Castle

“Is that how burg got to be kind of a slangy term for ‘town’?”

I nodded and chewed, wondering when he was going to bring up his proposition.

About these ads

About WordSnooper.com

Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
This entry was posted in etymology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s