The German Dish Labskaus Posted by Constanze on Jul 29, 2019 in Food, History, Intercultural, Language
Guten Tag! I’m coming at you today with a word you may not have realised is German in origin.
We’ve talked several times on the blog about English words that are actually German, including angst, wanderlust and rucksack, to name but a few. If you’re interested, there are posts on these here, here and here.
But sometimes there are words that take you by surprise, and this was one of those for me.
Today we are talking about the German word Labskaus, and its connection to a British-English word.
Labskaus is a traditional dish from northern Germany, especially popular in Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen. It consists of corned beef or other, salted meat, accompanied by potatoes and onions. There are variations on the dish (for example, some include an Ei – egg – rote Beete – beetroot, or Hering – herring) but this is its basic make-up. So, if you go to Norddeutschland (northern Germany) and see Labskaus on the menu, now you know what it is.
It is said that Labskaus was invented, and primarily eaten by, sailors and seamen in the 16th century, because all of the ingredients used were readily available and non-perishable.
The meaning of the word is not clear, but in Latvian the words ‘Labs kauss’ translate to ‘good bowl [of food]’, so it’s possible the German is a variation on that. The dish Labskaus is not exclusive to Germany; it is also found in parts of Scandinavia.
The English connection
Labskaus also made its way to England, UK – specifically to Liverpool, which is a British seaport. In English it became known as ‘scouse’. Not only is scouse the name of the dish, but it’s the name given to the people and dialect of Liverpool!
Labskaus → Lobscouse → Scouse
It never occurred to me why people from Liverpool might be called ‘scousers’ and the dialect be called ‘scouse’. How interesting to learn that the name comes from a plate of food eaten by German sailors many centuries ago.
Canned meat – das Dosenfleisch
Egg – das Ei
Beetroot – die rote Beete
Herring – der Hering
North Germany – Norddeutschland
Sailor/Seaman – der Seemann
Seaport – die Hafenstadt
perishable – verderblich
non-perishable – unverderblich
Scandinavia – das Skandinavien
Latvia – das Lettland
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