Compact Oxford English Dictionary:
/shaarkootəri/    noun.    (pl. charcuteries)   1. cold cooked meats collectively. 2. a shop selling such meats.

Charcuterie is one of those words. You're better off without it. It's used by pretentious poofs. It sounds fancy but means nothing special. But it is a pretty little French word, and I like pretty French words. So we'll learn about charcuteries.

In the original French charcutier (meaning 'butcher')* was formed from the words chair ('meat') and cuite ('cooked'). A charcutier works in a charcuterie. A charcutier also prepares charcuterie. I wish I could go into a long digression about French grammar and English corruptions of it, but really I have no idea why we use the same word for both the establishment and the meats it contains. Sorry.

Now, technically speaking, charcuteries (the meats) are just cooked or cured meats -- sausages, confits, hams, pâtés, cold cuts, black pudding, etc, etc. If you were to order charcuterie in a restaurant you would get a platter with a sampling of assorted sausages and the like. While many, even most, of these goodies may be derived from pork, they may also be made out of all kinds of other animals, both beast and fowl.

But in practice a charcuterie (the establishment) is more specifically a 'pork butcher'. In France a charcutier (or boucher charcutier) may sell all kinds of prepared meats, but the English translation is always given as 'pork butcher' ('meat delicatessen' would be a better translation). Many upscale American grocery stores have a charcuterie section with hams and sausages. Even in America, charcuteries rarely limit themselves entirely to purely pork products, but the core meaning has become 'fancy pork cuts'.


Footnotes:

* Butcher also comes to us from French, specifically, the Old French bouchier. Bouchier means 'one who kills goats' (Quick! What's the English word for 'one who kills goats'?), but the Anglo-Normans, heathens that they were, used it to refer to anyone that killed animals and prepared meats. This is the one redeeming feature of the word 'charcutier'; if language had any logic to it, we would call the meat store a 'charcuter shop' instead of a butcher shop.



Heisenberg says: re charcuterie: I am sorry, but having lived in France I find the notion that this word is only used by 'pretentious poofs' offensive. Charcuterie IS special and is something only western European nations have mastered. Your degradation of this stems from cultural arrogance.

Tem42: Yes, I misspoke. I meant to say that in America this word is used by pretentious poofs. I assume that this is also true in the UK and Australia. I know that this is not true in France. I apologize.

shaogo says re charcuterie: I am a pompous, pretentious gourmet (not of the "poof" variety). I take great exception to the statement "means nothing special." If you've ever had a crusty French roll or a piece of baguette with good confiture de canard or country pate - washed down with a simple wine; you'd know the sheer loveliness of charcuterie. It's also a tough class to master for any student of the classical French repertoire. (sigh) I must admit that your w/u was absolutely amusing and delightfully written. But I had to get in my two cents. (One last thing, you mention "pork butcher." Germans in America were responsible for the preponderance of "pork stores," a dying breed. Here you could get all manner of pork cuts (as well as good beef in most), and myriad German hams, sausages, and other delicacies. You might wanna add that).

Tem42: *sigh* Okay, I admit, charcuterie is an perfectly acceptable thing to order in a restaurant. I just hate seeing the word used in grocery stores and kitschy corner shops that think they can sell more glazed ham if they have a French name. I guess I'm the pretentious poof here.

References:
http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/charcuterie?view=uk
www.etymonline.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charcuterie
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/glossary/c.shtml?charcuterie
dictionary.reference.com

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