Monday, June 6, 2011


Hey Folks, I SO enjoyed that last giveaway that I thought I'd do another. Partly motivated by the fact that the publisher sent me many copies of this encyclopedia, because I pimped it for them, but also because I'm moving my office soon - just one door down, but clearance is good.

This is the A-Z ENCYLOPEDIA OF FOOD CONTROVERSIES AND THE LAW, 2 vols. edited by Liz Williams, whom you might know as director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in Nola.

What is the historical, etymological connection between the legal term tort and the culinary term torte? Post your answer here as a comment.

UPDATE: Several of you came quite close, especially with tort, deriving from medieval legal French via Latin toquere to twist, i.e. twisted and mischevious. The torta also comes from the same verb in late Latin. Torta panis was to start a flat bread, almost certainly twisted or braided, given the name. Then applied to any flat confection, tarts, tourtes, torta in Spanish is still a bread.

Ali's is the funniest though. Tell me where you live and I'll send it along. I know Australia, but where???!


Sara said...

Tort is derived from the Latin word Tortus, which means twisted. Tort is a French word, which means mischief, evil or wrong. In legal terms, a Tort is a wrong that that someone does to another; a breach of civil duty. A Torte is a type of cake involving little or no flour that is layered with filling or frosting. Due to the amount of layers in the cake, and the twisted way in which it can be a delicious dessert without using any flour, a Torte is like a Tort in that it is mischievous, evil and wrong. No flour in a cake? Blasphemy! A Torte, with its lack of flour, has breached its civil duty to other baked goods, thus making it a Tortfeasor.

Ken Albala said...

Sara, That is just brilliant, and twisted in its own mischevious, deviant way. But not quite true. The set goes to the best answer though, and yours might just be that! Ken

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

The Dutch word tarten means to defy. This seems to be where the words start to merge.

Originally, there was little difference between the French tourte, used to describe any loaf of round, brown bread, and "tarte," a pie or pudding.

I think the real thing they have in common is cow shit (based on Wedgwood and Atkinson's Dictionary of English Etymology). Cow patties are round and flat, like the typical torte (see torta cotta al sole, or "cake baked in the sun"). Committing tort can be likened to dragging or smearing one through the shit.

Marilyn said...

Tort dates back to the mid 13 c. meaning an injury or wrong. Tort as a legal sense of breach of a duty whereby someone acquires a right of action for "damages" is first recorded in the 1500s.
Torte may have come from the Italian torta, a colloquial definition of which is "spoils".

Glenn said...

First of all, I'd have to guess that our fine maestro is pining for essays to correct, it being more or less summertime (unless you go by the weather).

As to the connection, I'll take the low road and assert there is no real connection--torte being Central European and tort having a more Latin and English derivation.

And if this isn't a fine case of a false cognate, well, I'll be "muy embarasada" (grin)

Ali said...

Ooo I don't know, and my brain is small... however I did find a most marvelous case of a marital torte tort - for non delivery of a wedding cake.

Ali said...

Ooo I won I won I won!!! Yep, I won. Bring on the encyclopedia! Bedtime reading is about to take on a whole new dimension.