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Lax vs salmon
Posted: 26 February 2014 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I saw an American sitcom the other day.
One of the female characters was standing at a buffet yelling she wanted a piece of the deliciously looking “lax”. She was about to have some salmon from the buffet.
She was addresing a male character that she, in the situation, found vague and not able to tell the truth.
I had to look up the word “lax” because I was not familiar with it.

But my question is if “lax” in the English speaking parts of the world can be used to discribe “salmon” as well?

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Posted: 26 February 2014 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In my part of the English-speaking world, it is spelled lox, and is only used to refer to preserved or smoked salmon (usually filleted), not as a general synonym for salmon.

[ Edited: 26 February 2014 10:44 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 26 February 2014 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I was only familiar with the term “lox”, interesting.

Oxford English Dictionary |

lax, n.1

Etymology:  Old English leax = Old High German, Middle High German lahs (modern German lachs… (Show More)

A salmon; in later use some particular kind of salmon (see quots.).
In the 17th c. the word seems to have been obsolete exc. in the north; southern writers merely guess at the meaning; Minsheu 1617 (followed by Phillips) app. connected the word with lax adj.  In recent examples it represents the Swedish or Norwegian word, as applied to the salmon of those countries.

[ Edited: 01 March 2014 11:21 AM by Logophile ]
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Posted: 26 February 2014 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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"Lox” or “lax” is also Yiddish for salmon, particularly (as Dr. Techie points out) preserved or smoked salmon. “Lox and bagels (with cream cheese)” is one of the traditional food delicacies favored by Jewish immigrants from Europe to North America, and made popular there by them. It’s possible that the word gained a wider currency via Jewish delis, particularly in New York (can’t find my copy of Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish right now).

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Posted: 26 February 2014 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The OED has two different entries, lax, n.1 and lox, n.2. Both ultimately come from the same Germanic root, and there are cognates in German, Danish, Swedish, and Dutch, as well as Russian and Polish.

Lax dates back to Old English. The OED has citations up to the late nineteenth century, but as the entry dates to 1902, I don’t know if and how much it is still in use.

Lox, as has been said, is a borrowing from Yiddish, entering American discourse in the 1940s.

I recall the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice in which the following exchange takes place. The screenplay is by Roald Dahl, and the exchange may reflect a difference in British and American sensibilities.

Tanaka: This… is an order for naval stores. 500 kilos of butter, 50 containers of lox. What is lox?
James: Oh, it’s an American name for smoked salmon. But it’s also the technical name for liquid oxygen. Which makes rocket fuel.

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Posted: 26 February 2014 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m mildly surprised to learn of the existence of Eng.lax= salmon, however, though I don’t know what American sitcom Ratatosk was watching, I’d bet a tidy sum that the word used in the script was lox, not lax.

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Posted: 26 February 2014 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dr. Techie - 26 February 2014 12:17 PM

...I don’t know what American sitcom Ratatosk was watching, I’d bet a tidy sum that the word used in the script was lox, not lax.

Me, too.  But I can picture a Fran Drescher or a Selma Diamond executing a sitcom pronunciation of “lox” that might sound like “lax” to a non-native.

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Posted: 27 February 2014 12:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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"Lax” is standard modern Swedish for salmon (of all kinds including live, not just smoked). Never heard it in British English.

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Posted: 27 February 2014 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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“Lax” is standard modern Swedish for salmon (of all kinds including live, not just smoked). Never heard it in British English.

Me neither, except in the compound gravadlax, which has been sighted in posh delis and eateries in recent years.

And - since nobody in this thread has yet spelt this out - lox is also entirely unknown in British English. (That is, for all I know it may be in use in the kosher Jewish community, but if it is it certainly has not broken into mainstream language.) In the last few decades the immense boom in intensive salmon farming in Scotland has turned smoked salmon from a luxury into an everyday sandwich filling, but it’s never called anything other than ‘smoked salmon’.

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Posted: 27 February 2014 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’ve found that when searching for an unfamiliar name for stuff try shopping online. Amazon has “lox”, “gravlox” and “gravlax”. 

All search combinations do not take me straight to food. “lax” alone takes me to socks.  So “lax” as food may be out there somewhere.  Among the product descriptions was a “(gravid lax)” that does not show up in a search. I could not find it again, perhaps they sold out while I was pecking around.

I did Amazon.com>groceries>groceries and gourmet food>

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Posted: 27 February 2014 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Gravadlax is a Swedish delicacy *. The term means literally “entombed salmon” (cf. English “grave"). Part of the processing apparently involves actually burying the fish in the ground for a period of time. I think the Swedish word may include some diacritical marks which I can’t reproduce.

* It’s great stuff. The first time I ever tasted Swedish preserved salmon is forever graven (in letters of figurative gold) on the lining of my stomach, which I worship almost equally with Mammon (Aphrodite too, of course, but mostly in distant retrospect, nowadays ;-).  (sighs wistfully)

(Edited to add emotion-laden personal touch)

[ Edited: 27 February 2014 12:35 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 27 February 2014 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Among the product descriptions was a “(gravid lax)”

Somehow I don’t think “gravid lax” would go down well at a kosher deli. After all, we Jews are commanded not to eat a kid seethed in its mother’s milk, and eating an expectant mother, however fishy, seems almost equally serious an assault on the hallowed institution of motherhood.

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Posted: 28 February 2014 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Yes, Lionello, gravad lax (alternatively gravlax) is a Swedish delicacy. The name does literally mean “buried salmon” but I don’t think it was ever actually buried (I may be wrong). Today it is simply marinated, usually under a weight, for a couple of days in a mixture of salt and sugar. You are not missing any diacritical marks from the Swedish :)

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Posted: 28 February 2014 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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serious an assault on the hallowed institution of motherhood.

Mmmmm… caviar.

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Posted: 28 February 2014 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Just to state the (hopefully) obvious, the lax that comes from OE is irrelevant to the program Ratatosk was posting about; the only reason we’re talking about it is that Ratatosk, unfamiliar with the word lox, spelled it with an a.  I’m glad we’re talking about it, mind you, because it’s an interesting find, but it’s not what the sitcom character said.

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Posted: 28 February 2014 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Don’t worry, Doc, you’re not invisible to all of us.

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