Egg. Perfectly formed, self-contained, nutritious, a cradle of life … is there anything more perfect than this?
‘Egg’ – the noun – has survived centuries of use but remains relatively unchanged from the Middle English ‘egg’ and its ancestor, the Old Norse ‘egg’. A simple word, it has contributed to a range of expressions over time: good egg, rotten egg (reportedly 1848), egg on your face (reportedly 1936), nest egg. It is part of relevant advice today: don’t put all your eggs in one basket (Cervantes in Don Quixote, 1605) and it is also an insult: go suck an egg (1930s).
‘Egg’ – the verb – represents encouragement, e.g., egg someone on. The thing is, the Old Norse etymology of ‘egg’ is the same as ‘edge’. So to egg someone on, back in the day, was to edge someone on, i.e., to provoke or drive to the edge. Technically, therefore, you could egg an egg to the egg. But I digress.
‘Egg’ – the food – is even more, well, egg-citing. Its cooking methods are diverse: hard-boiled, coddled, poached, fried, scrambled. It is integral in souffles, custards, soups and drinks. And let’s not forget caviar.
‘Egg’ is a poster child of cultural diversity: Huevos Rancheros, tamagoyaki, century egg, omelette, frittata. If you’re interested, see here for international breakfast egg recipes! By the way, while a London firm claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in the 1700s, it was apparently already being served during the Mughal Empire, founded in 1526!
‘Egg’ has synonyms. Kind of. I’m thinking of ovum, roe, spawn.
‘Egg’ becomes a tool for vandalism when it is thrown at someone’s house, i.e., egging. I know of a much-hated teacher whose students once cracked raw eggs on his car; it was parked in the sun.
‘Egg’ is part of folklore and tradition. It is said to cure illnesses, hangovers and foretell the future. It symbolises new life, birth and resurrection. The Chinese, for instance, distribute hard-boiled eggs dyed red to friends and family to celebrate a baby’s first month or first year.
‘Egg’ is a decorative item – who can ignore the beauty of an ostrich egg lamp? Or a Faberge egg?
‘Egg’ has cult followings – an egg yolk called Gudetama has spawned restaurants, merchandise and a near rock star status. And who has never heard of Humpty Dumpty?
I’d love to hear how the egg features in your culture. Please do share by leaving a comment!
DAILY PROMPT ~ EGG