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Sommelier

I happened to see a post at one of the wine blogs I follow regarding the derivation of the word sommelier. But while the post is accurate, mostly, as far as it goes, it doesn't to my mind go nearly far enough. First, a bare bones definition of sommelier:
A restaurant employee who orders and maintains the wines sold in the restaurant and usually has extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings (AHD). You'll sometimes see a sommelier defined as a wine steward, though technically there's a fair bit of expertise that's well beyond that of a steward.

Now, for the etymology. Sommelier is a word English borrowed from French; it's derived from Old French, from *sommerier, meaning "beast of burden," that is, a pack animal. Old French *sommerier was, it appears, borrowed into French via Provencal, and before that, from Vulgar Latin *saumrius.

The basic concept is that the sommlier, an expert on the storing and selection of wines, was a position that was on…

Olive Oil: A Story of Human Civilization and Migration

Olives, deliberately planted and tended for thousands of years, are intimately tied to the early diets of ancient humans, who carefully cultivated them wherever we roamed, so much so that a plant with Afro-Asiatic ancestry is now grown even in Washington state. It's no small thing, that, and it marks the importance of the olive tree in human history, given that the plant is used not only for the fruit (the olive), but for the oil, pressed from the fruit, and the leaves, and even the wood.

English, etymologically speaking, obtained the word olive via Old French, olive, from Latin oliva, "olive, olive tree," from Greek elaia "olive tree, olive." Elaia is most likely derived from one of the Aegean languages, possibly Cretan, or Minoan, since we also see ewi "oil" in Armenian. From roughly the 14th century on in Middle English, we routinely see olive used for the tree, and the fruit of the tree. Trees are closely tied to human migrations across the conti…