Posted by: Jack Henry | November 23, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Potlucks and Potlatches

I don’t know if it was the chatter about sausage-making a couple of weeks ago or if it was our Toastmasters invitation to people for “Speeches and Free Hot Dogs,” but something had me thinking about potlucks, and I think someone asked me where that word came from. I’ll get to that in just a second.

Before looking it up, I also remembered the word potlatch, something we learned growing up in the Pacific Northwest. A potlatch is a get-together where gifts are exchanged and people celebrate. I wondered if there was a connection between the two.

It ends up that the words developed separately, but they can both mean a meeting of people where crockpots are cooking and the atmosphere is happy and party-like. From my favorite etymology site, here are some definitions:

potluck (noun)

also pot-luck, 1590s, from pot + luck; with notion of "one’s luck or chance as to what may be in the pot." [KC – Something makes me think “luck” and “dinner” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence!] As an adjective from 1775.

potlatch (noun)

1845, "a gift," from Chinook jargon pot-latch, "a gift," from Nootka (Wakashan) patshatl "giving, gift." Later (1865) in sense "ceremony in which gifts are exchanged.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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