February 5, 2014

Case File #014.02.05: SAUCE

The noun sauce entered the English lexicon circa 1340, but its original form was sause, a direct borrowing of the Old French. The Old French derived from the Vulgar Latin noun salsa, which meant “a briny relish or dressing for food” and was itself a feminized derivative of the classical Latin adjective salsus, meaning “salted.” Around 1355, the English form changed to the now familiar sauce, and not long after, the word took on the secondary figurative sense of “anything that adds flavor or gusto.” The word's verb senses, “to season or furnish with a sauce” and “to add piquancy or zest,” first came into use in the mid-fifteenth century. But it wasn't until 1940 that sauce acquired the informal noun sense of “liquor”: the slang first appeared in Pal Joey, an epistolary novel by American author John O'Hara.

©2014 Michael R. Gates

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