Word of the Week (189): BROCHAN (probability 19906), by David Sutton

ROCHAN is a Gaelic word for a kind of porridge or gruel. The Scots are pretty big on porridge, though they have some funny ideas about how to eat it; I understand they have even been known to put salt on it, whereas any sensible person knows that porridge should be flavoured with a large spoonful of golden syrup followed by cream off the milk. Be that as it may, the Scots have also given us SOWANS or SOWENS, a kind of oat porridge traditionally eaten at Halloween, plus two variants of the word porridge, PARRITCH and PARRIDGE.

Not that the Scots have a monopoly on porridge. Africa gives us MAHEWU, a fermented liquid mealie-meal porridge, used as a stimulant, UGALI, a kind of stiff porridge that Kenyan distance runners seem to do rather well on, and SADZA, a type of porridge made from maize flour.

Ireland gives us PRAISEACH, an oatmeal porridge, and STIRABOUT. Italy has POLENTA. Russia contributes KASHA, a porridge made from crushed buckwheat, while from the American Indian we have SUPPAWN, a maize porridge.

Other porridge-related or PORRIDGY words include THIVEL (or THIBLE) and SPIRTLE (or SPURTLE) which are sticks used to stir porridge by those societies that have not yet evolved the concept of the spoon, and PORRENGER (or PORRINGER), a small bowl used to hold porridge.


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