Separation of Animal and Meat

One thing that is interesting in German is meat, or rather, what they call their meat.  Upon doing some research, I found that it is English, not German that is the anomaly.


In English, we have a separation of animal and meat…


Cow                        Beef

Cow (baby)             Veal

Pig                           Pork

Deer                        Venison

Sheep                      Mutton


Of course, there are sum exceptions to this rule:


Chicken        =         Chicken

Lamb            =         Lamb


In Germany, this is completely different.  Schweinefleisch is the word for pork in Germany, which literally translates to swine flesh or pig flesh.  All meats including fish (to my knowledge) have the word -fleisch at the end of them.  This is useful for vegetarians who are not familiar with German.  All you have to do is stay away from anything that has fleisch in it.   In fact, the German word for meat is fleisch (Flesh in English).  A butcher is called a fleischerei.


I kind of like the fact that in English, the names of the food are a bit removed from the food.  I know that this leads to English speaking countries obliviousness to animal treatment during meat production, slaughter, and other animal rights issues.  I am aware that when I eat meat, it comes from an animal.  My ancestors were farmers.  I get it.  I prefer to buy local, free range meat where the animals are well taken care of.  I have seen a young bull, petted it, called it by name, and then ate meat from that same animal (when it was a steer) the next year. (I visited family members and met their (then) bull. His name was Moo-Moo. He became a stag later on. The next time I visited, I sat down to eat a hamburger, and it was announced that we were eating Moo-Moo burgers.  He was a tasty animal.)  But all the same, I prefer to use delicate words when having a meal.  Can you imagine saying, “The roasted beat, goat cheese and arugula salad with candied pistachios was excellent.  Please pass the rosemary pig flesh roast?”  I think not. “The roasted beat, goat cheese and arugula salad with candied pistachios was excellent.  Please pass the rosemary pork roast,” sounds a lot better.


It is not the German language that is unusual in this manner, but rather the English language.  The reason this is the case is because the words for the animals in the English language are Anglo-Saxon while the words for the food are Norman-French.  When the Norman-French invaded current day Britain, they became the ruling aristocracy that could afford to eat meat.  The people who worked for the Norman-French were the people who interacted with the animals.  The farmers, butchers, etc were poor Anglo-Saxons and used the Anglo-Saxon words for the animals.  When the meat was cooked an prepared, it was given to the Aristocratic Norman-French and they used the Norman-French words for the animals that were served.  This is why the animal words are different from the meat/food words.  They originate from two separate languages.