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morganlf and I were going down the Thames, en route to Greenwich, yesterday when she asked me where the word "Limehouse" came from. Today I checked - it's from "Lime Oast", i.e. lime kiln, kilns for making quicklime. Quicklime is used in everything from mortar to plaster to slaking corn to pottery. Apparently, Henry III's navy blinded an invading French fleet with it.

Chalk is a kind of limestone, chalk such as the chalk of the Chalk Group, the stone underlying much of southern England, under the Channel, the Netherlands, parts of the North Sea, and down into Champagne. It's also the name of a town in Kent, Chalk, reading about which, thanks to a prompt from ladybird97, is what reminded me to check on Limehouse's origins today and started this whole chain of connections.

Later, yesterday, after seeing the North-West Passage exhibit at the National Maritime Museum (CanCon dealt with for the week), and coming back home to burn things, we sipped on a sparkling wine which proclaimed itself argillaceous. Today's lime-browsing reassured me that not knowing how to translate it said nothing about my French and everything about my ignorance of stratigraphy. Argillaceous rocks have clay content. Limestone can be argillaceous, as is the argillaceous chalk marl through which the Channel Tunnel was dug.

Marl is lime-rich mud. In French, it is marne, from which the river and the department in France are surely named - for that's where Champagne, of the chalk-rich soil and sparkling wines is.

Speaking of limes - one of the other kinds - we also wondered why yuzu has become such a trendy fruit in chocolate.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 24th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
A ridge of limestone runs up England from south west to north east, and for a long time it marked an administrative boundary in Roman Britain; I was taught that the word came from "limes", "boundary". Not totally convinced, but it would explain why it doesn't have cognates in other languages.
Jun. 24th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
It's an appealing explanation.

Here's what the OED offers:
[OE. lím str. masc. = MDu. lîm masc. (mod.Du. lijm fem.), OHG. lîm (MHG. lîm, mod.G. leim) masc., ON. lím neut.: OTeut. *lîmo- = L. li̅mus mud, f. WAryan root *lĭ- in L. li-nĕre to smear; another grade of the root occurs in LOAM, LAIR n.2]

Jun. 24th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
And to add to that...

a. OF. 12th c. bescoit, 13th c. bescuit, 16th c. biscut, mod.F. biscuit, a common Romanic word (= Pr. bescueit, Cat. bescuyt, Sp. bizcocho, Pg. biscuto, It. biscotto) on L. type *biscoctum (panem), bread ‘twice baked,’ from the original mode of preparation. The regular form in Eng. from 16th to 18th c. was bisket, as still pronounced; the current biscuit is a senseless adoption of the mod.Fr. spelling, without the Fr. pronunciation.]
Jun. 24th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Biscuit!
oops. that's me! morgan!
Jun. 24th, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Biscuit!
I figured no one else was likely to be posting that! Thanks!

I'm rather charmed to see "biskit" as the moderately-recent historical form. LOLcats: Instructive source of historical English
Jun. 24th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC)
why yuzu?

Actually, I think it's because it was a relatively unknown citrus in Europe and the West, until someone asked about it on a sushi-eating trip to Japan. So for a while they added it to everything--chocolate's happened to stick for a while. Yuzu's also big in dressings.

(I'm not so into the yuzu, actually. Now, sudachi....)

I have yet to sight the yuzu KitKat, if they ever made it. (Ah, I miss the KitKat of Japan.)
Jun. 24th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC)
Re: why yuzu?
Oooh, the yuzu KitKat does sound nice.


I don't know sudachi (other than having just looked it up). The planet's full of interesting local fruits; I suppose there's always another doomed to be the next fad.

Jun. 24th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's embarrassing. I have eaten yuzu kitkat--they only came in the mini size, but I had a bag in the fridge for a while (my apartment in Tokyo got very warm, so things tended to melt a little).

They were rather unmemorable apparently. (Thinking back on it, the yuzu flavor didn't taste very fresh. The Milk Tea KitKats were more appealing for me.)
Jun. 24th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Kent also has a town named Cliffe which is near a, yes, chalk cliff on the estuary. It still has a cement works there, I think.

Chelsea is not, as you might think from the -ea ending, an island; it's one of those Saxon names the Normans got all wrong. If they'd left it alone, it would have been called Chalk-hithe today (or maybe elided to Chelketh, like Lambeth over the river was). I suppose it also had something to do with the trade in chalk from Kent: apparently you can see bits of chalk in the Thames there at low tide.

Jun. 25th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
How neat! It didn't occur to me to connect Chelsea with chalk.
Jun. 24th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
First to mind when I read your title - Julie Andrews singing "Limehouse Blues" in Star.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 25th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
The docklands are really more a warehouse kind of place than idyllic fruit cottages.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )