Over the past two weeks in Bordeaux we have been enjoying the arrival of spring with gloriously sunny days and the weather warming up to 25° (and even 30°!) Bordeaux’s inhabitants have been flocking to its parks, nearby beaches and outdoor spaces to enjoy the sunshine and… have a picnic!
Enjoying a delicious spread seated outdoors on a blanket or bench is a popular custom everywhere, and at The Home of Translation we’re no different! Living in Bordeaux we are, naturally, lovers of fine wine and gastronomy, but we have an equally insatiable curiosity about words. So, let’s leave our desks, living rooms and kitchen-diners for a while and take a moment find out a bit more about the culture and history surrounding the word ‘Picnic’.
Where does the word ‘picnic’ come from?
The word picnic has its origins in the French language, with the term: ‘pique-nique’. The word ‘nique’, meaning ‘something of little value’, was used during the 12th century and was derived from the expression ‘dire nic’, or ‘to not worry about’. The word ‘pique-nique’ stems from the combination of this word with the verb ‘picorer’ (to peck or nibble at). The term was first used in England in the middle of the 18th century.
Alternatively, an etymology suggested by the French lexicographer Emile Littré (1801-1881), which we particularly like, is that the word came from ‘pick’ (as, to seize) and ‘nick’, meaning ‘moment/instant’, which would make ‘picnic’ a synonym of carpe diem!
When did people start picnicking?
The first picnics in England were wealthy medieval hunting feasts, eaten outside and often comprised of extravagant and complex dishes. In France, the custom became popularized after the Revolution when parks were made open to the general public.
At the beginning of the 19th century in London a fashionable ‘Picnic society’ was formed, in which each member was expected to bring a contribution of food or entertainment and there was no particular ‘host’.
Today, picnics are still extremely popular, with National Picnic week being held every year in the UK in June, and in America National Picnic Day is celebrated every year on 23rd April.
In Bordeaux, this year will also see the first ever Bordeaux à la belle étoile event, an outdoor, all-night camp-over in in the Jardin Public with activities, concerts and shows and a shared breakfast from 6:30am.
But… what makes a perfect picnic?
Aside from the classic picnic essentials (a checked blanket, sandwiches, cakes, drinks etc.) we suggest packing the following:
- a cool box full of cold meats, pork pies, quiches or salad (for the healthy ones among you!)
- a frisbee, ball or other game
- Suncream or a sunshade (!)
- A thermos full of good British tea
We hope that has whet your picnicking appetite… and we look forward to hearing your stories!
So, as the French say: Bon appetit!
The Home of Translation