Saturday, 1 February 2014

Carnival - A Meaty Etymology

Carnival in Venice
(photo by Stefan Insam)


Noun & adjective. Mid-16th century.
[Italian carne-, carnovale (whence French carnaval) from medieval Latin carnelevamen, -varium Shrovetide,
from Latin caro, carn- flesh + levare put away.]

A1 noun. In Roman Catholic countries, the week (originally the day) before Lent, devoted to festivities;
Shrovetide; the festivity of this season. M16

A2 noun. Any period or occasion of riotous revelry or feasting;
a festival (especially at a regular date) usually involving a procession. L16

A3 noun. A travelling funfair; a circus. N.American. M20

B attributive or as adjective. Of or pertaining to a carnival; resembling or characteristic of a carnival. E17

carnivalesque adjective characteristic or of the style of a carnival M18
carnivalite noun a reveller at a carnival L19

Whenever I go to anything even remotely carnivalesque, I'm always immediately on the prowl for a good spit-roast ... y'know the type ... pork rolls, apple sauce, and crackling. Wow. You just don't get crackling like that anywhere else. And I always feel a little bit guilty about my gastronomical urges - I'm surrounded by culture, entertainment, glitz and glamour, and all I can think about is stuffing my fat face. However, I could argue (if my mouth weren't already full) that my desire to consume large quantities of meat is perfectly in keeping with the carnival spirit. Traditionally, carnival came right before Lent (a jolly observance during which Christians give up fun stuff including meat) - carnival is derived from caro or carn- (flesh) and levare (put away), as what better way to prepare for the abstinence of Lent than by stuffing one's face full of meat the week before? Mardi Gras is even more direct and means 'fat Tuesday', all of which makes me really, really fancy a bacon roll.

A funfair or, if you're American, a carnival
(photo by Nick Holland)
Are you a carnivalite?

Do you too immediately search out the spit-roast, burger van, hot-dog stand and goat pit?

Do please roll up, roll up and get your comments right here.


  1. Our town carnival was always held in August, so I have fond memories of standing peering through my crystallising breath at the poor little drum majorettes shivering along in their transparent raincoats, and of waving kindly at lorries covered in soggy paper palm trees and over-mature maidens.
    Happy days.

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