Friday 25 February 2011

Little Banquets

In Italian, the suffix -etto means little. So Giovanni Canal, because he was the son of the painter Bernard Canal, was known as Canaletto. It just means Canal Junior. (Similarly, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, had an elder brother who was nicknamed The Keg, or Il Bottici. So he, the little brother, was nicknamed The Little Keg, or Botticelli.)

A bench in Italian is a banco. So a little bench was a banchetto, hence the English banquette.

Now, if you're in a terrible hurry and don't have time for a proper lunch, what do you do? You buy a sandwich, you sit on a park bench and you gobble it up into your greedy gob. Thus, a snack, the sort of thing you eat on a little bench, is a banquet.

'Eh?' I hear you cry. 'A banquet isn't a little snack. It's a bloody great feast that goes on for hours and involves quails and fried elephants. It's not something you munch on in a hurry.'

And you're right, dear reader, utterly right. That's what banquet means now, but once it meant a tiny snack, probably eaten between proper meals. And absolutely nobody knows how the word got from the one meaning to the other.

I'm now going to make myself a quick banquet.

A dinner party at Inky Fool mansions


  1. Maybe you were originally only supposed to have a few hors d'oeuvres at banquets? Like, a snack sized amount of food? But then people got really hungry? I don't know.

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