Saloon
Posted: 03 October 2012 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]
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While researching the first use of the word “saloon” to mean “place where alcoholic refreshment is sold”, I was surprised to discover that while saloon’s Proto-Indo-European ancestor had a descendant in Old English, which was used in a compound word that was the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the modern saloon, the Old English word died out, and “saloon” actually came into modern English on a long journey via Germanic, Italian and French.

Apologies that I am telling quite a few of you things you already know, but the tale started with PIE *sel-, which meant something like “human settlement”: the Russian for “village” is still село, and the Lithuanian is sala. In Proto-Germanic the meaning seems to have shifted to “hall”: Saal is still a German word meaning “hall”. Old English had sele, “hall”, and beór-sele in Old English, was “beer hall” – or “beer saloon”, perhaps. The word appears several times in Beowulf, including the line

Gebeotedon beore druncne oret-mecgas, ðæt hie in beor-sele bidan woldon Grendles guðe

that is, “The sons of conflict, drunk on beer, promised they would wait in the beer-hall for Grendel’s attack.”

Not certain we can really reimagine King Hroðgar as the landlord of the Hart and Beowulf as his bouncer ...

However, while the word sele staggered on as “sale”, meaning “hall”, into Tudor English, it seems to have died out early in the 16th century. Meanwhile Italian had picked up the Germanic word for “hall”, probably something like *saloz-, and turned it into sala, “hall”, and then salone, “large hall”. The French then took salone and made it salon, “reception room”, and from there “salon” entered English as a word meaning originally “A large and lofty apartment serving as one of the principal reception rooms in a palace or other great house”, and then more specifically “A room, more or less elegantly furnished, used for the reception of guests; a drawing-room”. By the 1720s “salon” was also being spelt “saloon” in English, and by the 1740s “saloon” was being used to mean “A large apartment or hall, especially in a hotel or other place of public resort, adapted for assemblies, entertainments and exhibitions”.

Since drink would naturally be served in these saloons before, during or after the entertainments, it was equally natural that “saloon” drifted semantically to take in the meaning “a place where intoxicating liquors are sold and consumed; a drinking bar”. “Saloon”, in an American context to mean place serving alcohol, looks to date from at least the early 1840s.

Those of you familiar with British pubs will know that many pubs have at least a couple of separate bars, frequently still labelled on the doors “public bar”, originally for the more down-market, working-class customers, and “saloon bar”, which would originally have been rather more upmarket. “Saloon bar” is, in a British context and its British sense of the upmarket side of the pub, quite late: the Oxford English Dictionary only found its first mention in 1902. Google Books lets us do rather better, but considering how ubiquitous this two-bar class-based division was in British pubs in the 20th century, I was surprised to find the earliest reference to “saloon bar” was only from the 1880s, in an anonymously written book called Tempted London: Young Men, published in 1888:

The most harmful class of taverns are those which are made the usual resort of women of bad character … One tavern at Islington is one of the most notorious of this class. Here there is a large saloon bar which, after 8 o’clock at night, is almost monopolized by the class of persons just mentioned. They are allowed to remain there as long as ever they like, and no man is safe from their impertinences, if he once ventures into the saloon.

So: beór-sele, saloon bar, same concept (given the thousand-year difference between them), same word at their heart, but two different routes into the language.

[ Edited: 03 October 2012 11:52 AM by Zythophile ]
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Posted: 03 October 2012 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Fascinating stuff. Yes, I well remember pubs having saloon bars, public bars and snugs. The snug was tiny, sometimes just big enough to hold one or two small tables and a few chairs. Usually a couple of old dears could be found in there. Those who remember the old Coronation Street will recall Ena Sharples, Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst sitting in the snug gazing balefully across the counters at those in the public bar. I don’t know when pubs abandoned these distinctions. Perhaps the 80s?

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Posted: 03 October 2012 03:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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aldiboronti - 03 October 2012 12:43 PM

I don’t know when pubs abandoned these distinctions. Perhaps the 80s?

Still quite common in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I go back to visit. Not so much in the centre of town, but certainly in pubs on the housing estates (’schemes’) and places further out of the centre, also found in pubs in villages outside the town as well.

So still pretty current.

Never hear the word ‘snug’ though, Northern English perhaps? That Ina Sharples mention took me back a long way to my childhood, very accurate!

Nice word investigation too, thanks for that.

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Posted: 03 October 2012 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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BlackGrey - 03 October 2012 03:05 PM

Never hear the word ‘snug’ though, Northern English perhaps?

Yes, a guide published by The Times in 1960 says “snug” or “snuggery” was the North of England equivalent of what in the South was called the “bar parlour”, “an inner room, without a street entrance, reserved traditionally for regular customers or the landlord’s inmates.” Strangely, though, the OED’s first mention of “snuggery” (1829) is about a pub in London, its next by the Southerner Charles Dickens, in Pickwick Papers (1836). ("Snug" it first found in the “bar-parlour” sense fractionally later, in 1838.)

Nice word investigation too, thanks for that.

Thank you, literally my pleasure.

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Posted: 04 October 2012 12:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"Snug”, the small drinking/eating room in a pub, is still fairly common in the north of England. OED says it’s from the adjective “snug”, of doubtful origin, first recorded as a nautical term.  “The Dictionary of Pub Names” lists a pub called “The Snug” in Glasgow, Dalmellington and Crummock in Scotland, at least when the book was published in 2006.

Very interesting, zythophile - the sort of stuff I love reading here.

“Saal” lives on in Afrikaans, meaning hall.

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Posted: 04 October 2012 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Why do the English also use saloon to refer to a particular style of automobile?  Forgive me if the answer is obvious; I’ve done no research on this topic, just heard it somewhere, Top Gear being my first guess.

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Posted: 04 October 2012 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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NotThatGuy - 04 October 2012 08:26 AM

Why do the English also use saloon to refer to a particular style of automobile?  Forgive me if the answer is obvious; I’ve done no research on this topic, just heard it somewhere, Top Gear being my first guess.

Meals (and drinks?) were served in railroad “saloon cars,” “Pullman Dining Saloon Cars.” These saloon cars were more luxurious, of higher class (see below: “first class saloon") than passenger cars, and the railway charged extra for their use. (And there were several types of “saloon cars”, sleeping, dining, and drawing-room, mainly for first-class passengers or at some extra charge for other than first-class passengers.) Perhaps the automobile term descended from that sense of “higher class”.

From London Of To-Day.:[an illustrated handbook for the season: 1890], by Charles Erye Pascoe,1890:

.

books?id=KQECAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA420&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3G0G1yFI1SElVB8tvfBXJLpjqB3A&ci=174,728,728,390&edge=0

.

books?id=KQECAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA213&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3jKk0fsggfgMS6fNo7vk4WbcBR8A&ci=96,656,752,222&edge=0

.

Here, a diagram from Knight’s American mechanical dictionary: A description of tools ..., Volume 2, by Edward Henry Knight, 1881:

books?id=Zh_OAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1863&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0jhsWM-RF2-r_8-e2kNX_acET-Yw&ci=493,484,377,847&edge=0

[ Edited: 04 October 2012 09:41 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 04 October 2012 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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First cite for saloon car in the automobile sense is 1908 in OED.

c. A type of motor car with a closed body for four or more passengers. Cf. sedan n. 1c.

1908 Motor Manual (ed. 11) iii. 92 Other forms of bodies fitted to more expensive cars include the brougham, landaulet, saloon, double phaeton, [etc.].

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Posted: 05 October 2012 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Makes perfect sense - thanks to both of you!
BTW, sobiest, the second passage ("If staying at Dover...") appears to be referring to a cabin on a ship rather than a railroad car.

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Posted: 05 October 2012 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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“Saal” lives on in Afrikaans, meaning hall.

The Thai for hall is sala. Probably coincidental.

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Posted: 05 October 2012 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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NotThatGuy - 05 October 2012 11:58 AM


BTW, sobiest, the second passage ("If staying at Dover...") appears to be referring to a cabin on a ship rather than a railroad car.

Yes.

Apparently there was “first-class saloon” travel available via steamer from Dover to Calais.

From Dover to Calais would have been over water. However, the travel that the below advertisement offered appears to have been via rail in “special saloon cars” from London to Dover; steamer to Calais; then via carriage from Calais to other points, including Paris (via train?), Cannes, Nice, and the Riviera.

I failed to select an appropriate clip. This clip below, from the same source, may have been a better choice:

books?id=KQECAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA422&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1i91eWNa6hpLokpFqr7Fzm9wASgQ&ci=137,125,769,1260&edge=0

[ Edited: 05 October 2012 02:29 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 06 October 2012 12:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Altogether a fun thread. You certainly deserve your nom de clavier, Zythophile.  á propos beer: you are no doubt familiar with the Biblical saying (Proverbs 20:1) “Wine is a mocker, and strong drink [shekhar] is raging” *. It is nowadays thought that the Hebrew shekhar actually meant a drink brewed from grain, i.e. beer [sudden alarming thought: could it be that this has already been discussed here? If it has, the ineluctable Dr. T is sure to know]. Beer has been brewed in my part of the world since prehistoric times. Distilled alcoholic beverages came much later.

* My father would quote this verse whenever he saw me taking a drink. When he felt like a drink, he would quote St. Paul (1 Timothy 5:23): “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake"…

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Posted: 06 October 2012 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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We discussed it here (in which the connection to cider was brought out), and in passing in this discussion of slang terms for drunk (the mention of shekhar was fairly tangential, but inspired me to make a pun I’m still rather pleased with).

I add my praises for Zythophile’s most interesting post, and the worthy discussion it stimulated.

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Posted: 06 October 2012 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dr. Techie delivers the goods - as usual. ¡viva el doctor!

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