Thursday, August 22, 2013


The English language is so strange sometimes.

When I think "fancy," I usually think about trappings: a ballgown or an elegantly dressed table filled with crystal and china. Of course, those trappings don't have to be so formal; a three-year old in her favorite sparkly tutu is pretty fancy, too.

You know what doesn't seem fancy to me? The shredded "Mexican" cheese I buy from Trader Joe's. Yet there that word is, right on the label.

In the food world, fancy often means either upscale - as in fine dining - or "gourmet," which is how the organizers of the Fancy Food Shows use the word. But it also has these very narrow, very random definitions.

For my cheese, it means it's been shredded into very thin pieces.

On vegetables - fresh, canned or frozen - it can indicate a USDA Grade A product. If you see "extra fancy" on ketchup, it means the tomatoes were Grade A.

On other products, like nuts, fancy means the items have been carefully selected for their perfection.

What I don't know - and can't figure out via the internet - is how "fancy" evolved into all these different things. How did those word branches grow?

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