A Study in Geek Conversation

The following is a true story.

Husband: I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do for food this weekend [at an 18th century re-enactment].

Me: Yes, you need your vittles.


Me: I wonder where the word “vittles” comes from?

Husband: It’s a bastardization of the word “victuals.” Now, ask me to make up some b.s. about where the word “victuals” comes from.

Me: It’s Latin.

Husband: I thought it probably was.

Me: I would think it’s related to words like “vitality.”

[Thoughtful pause]

Husband: It’s probably from the Latin “vitae,” which means “life.”

Me: Yeah, that’s the root of “vitality.”

Husband: You’re on the internet. Look it up. We need our daily geek quota.

[I look it up on the internet]

From English Language and Usage:

c.1300, vitaylle (singular), from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vitaille, from L.L. victualia “provisions,” noun use of plural of victualis “of nourishment,” from victus “livelihood, food, sustenance,” from base of vivere “to live” (see vital). Spelling altered early 16c. to conform with Latin, but pronunciation remains “vittles.”

Conclusion: So, we were right that it was originally a Latin word, although we didn’t get the root quite correct (although we were clearly in the neighborhood). What we didn’t know, however, is that the word “victuals” is actually pronounced the same as “vittles.”

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

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