The chameleon of words

With the July 4th holiday upon us, I thought I’d investigate a word we Americans often use liberally around this time of year—and a word we don’t completely understand.

Is it a noun? Is it a verb? Yes. And how do we spell it? Barbecue, barbeque—the Aussies, who would rather do it than figure out how to spell it, stick with “barby” or “barbie.”

Where does it come from? The OED says Haiti; other sources propose that native people of what is now Florida invented it. Wikipedia doesn’t source that delicious fact, but if true it would make good ol’ BBQ a proto-American invention. Columbus found the natives roasting meat on sticks as far back as 1492, apparently.

I am neutral in the barbeque sauce wars; I don’t like any of them,. But I will defend your right to enjoy your smoked and/or roasted and/or grilled meat with whatever dressings you like. I guess you could say I’m pro-choice.

Just remember as you barbeque your barbeque that it’s both a noun and a verb. As is, I suppose, “hot dog”—my own favorite Fourth of July fare.

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