"Curry" and its origins?

Geeta Bharathan geeta at LIFE.BIO.SUNYSB.EDU
Thu Feb 5 17:42:44 UTC 1998

On Wed, 4 Feb 1998, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:

> In a message dated 98-01-30 10:02:07 EST, geeta at LIFE.BIO.SUNYSB.EDU writes:
>  --when did "kuzhambu" replace "curry"? >>
> kuzampu must have been of very ancient usage. According to Burrow and
> Southworth, Vedic karambha is said to be derived from kuzampu.

What I really meant to ask here was this-- it appears that kaRi in Tamil
was used, in days past, to refer to what is generally termed kuzampu in
modern times (a thickish-fluidy dish containing either vegetables or meat
or both, eaten mixed with rice). Clearly there was a switch in the usage
at some point in time. My question is, when was that point in time?

It seems to me that the etymology of the word "curry" in English as being
derived from the Tamil word "kaRi meaning sauce" would be valid only if we
are sure that the transition from kaRi to kuzampu did not happen until
after the encounter with the British.

And, what I find even more fascinating is, why did the transition occur in
Tamil, whenever it did, while it not happen in malayALam, for instance?
Did it get "fixed" in these other languages because of reinforcement from
the English/British presence, just as the word "curry" spread to other
parts of India where it had had not history prior to the British
presence--e.g. in Bengal, where it is used as a generalized term to refer
to dishes from other parts of India? But then, this does not explain what
happened in Tamil.

What are the historical forces that act on this word, kaRi, in Tamil??

(I don't think kaDHi in Hindi, Punjabi etc is either the same entity--it
is a very specific type of dish, or the same word--soemeone pointed this
out in another response.)


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