PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

Bonehead

You may be a young reader unaware of the living, evolutionary quality of the English language, but I’m not so young any longer, and I remember when a person who removed the bones from a chicken would be said to be “boning” the animal. Back then, when I was just a kid in the late 1800s (or so), I used to think: How odd, that removing bones is called boning. Shouldn’t it be called unboning, or deboning?

Then, the other day, I had to prepare my newest favorite dish called sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines – but you knew that!) and was directed by Jamie Oliver in how to “debone” the sardines. Dear old dad, a debonafide glossophile (Iook it up), is turning in his grave at the thought of deboning replacing boning in common parlance.

Interestingly, m-w.com (Merriam Webster online), which defines the transitive verbs “bone” and “debone” nearly identically (“to remove the bones from”), calls a person who debones meat as a “deboner” but makes no mention of a person who bones meat as a “boner.”

This also makes me wonder if ever, in the history of English literature, a character has been referred to as a “debonair deboner.” Will ask the people at Google to scan their databases for that pairing of words.

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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

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