Word for Wednesday: Spellzone is the mustard!

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Spellzone is the mustard!

This week’s inquiry into the expansive English vocabulary features a culinary condiment that has come to be a divider of people’s tastes. This word has a handful of applications in both slang and a formal situation so is worth getting to know.


Must’ comes from the Latin ‘vinummustum’ (young wine) and refers to any freshly pressed juice where the entire fruit: skin, seeds, flesh etc. is used. Picture the very basic but entirely effective method of pressing wine: the human foot - you’ve probably seen it in books or even had a go at it yourself! This process is used to make ‘must’ from the grapes in the early stages of wine making.

The English ‘mustard’ is derived from the Old French ‘moustarde’, but as you probably know the popular types of mustard vary from country to country, France being renowned for its exceptionally tasty and a little milder Dijon mustard.

The ‘-ard’ half of the word gives the word that fiery mustard kick, coming from the Latin ‘ardens’; meaning ‘flaming’. The Romans were apparently the first to use mustard as a condiment mixing mustard seeds with fermented wine must to create ‘mustumardens’ or ‘burning must’.

Since it emerged in the English language in the middle ages, mustard has found several different applications.

  • Mustard has become a legitimate description for the quite sickly array of dark brown/yellows in the colour spectrum.
  • In the First World War a terrible chemical weapon known as mustard gas was used causing nightmarish effects to its victims; so called due to its strong garlic or mustard-like smell.
  • In slang, the term ‘the mustard’ can refer to a child born out of wedlock.
  • Or alternatively, to describe something as ‘the mustard’ is to describe it as ‘good’ or ‘the best’; for example ‘Sam is the mustard at football’.

Hopefully the next time you daub a blob of mustard on your plate, you do so with a much greater deal of understanding!

This post was actually a request, and it would be great if you could suggest some other interesting words that you might like to discuss.

Until next time!

Hugh MacDermott

12 Feb 2014
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