Learn English – If cow = beef, pig = pork, and deer = venison, then where is the word for human = [flesh as food source]


Maybe it's the season of Halloween, because it's kind of a grim question, but I have seriously wondered from a language point of view – is there a word for human as 'food-meat', or has there ever been, in English or related historical languages?

Obviously there is sanctity of life in civilization in general, and there is a taboo on cannibalism in western history, I know. And of course that taboo alone may explain what seems to be a sort of language gap.

But sometimes taboo doesn't mean there isn't a term for something, it just means a term may be hidden or buried (I'm sorry I can't think of examples off the top of my head but I remember learning about that for my English degree).

In addition, there is the shift between Saxon and Norman English when we ended up with a split for 'living animal' (cow, sheep, deer) and 'dead food-meat animal' (beef, mutton, venison).

But that does serve as a handy dividing line – on this side are the words for live creature, and on that side are the words for food.

If you line up 'cow, sheep, deer, pig' on one side of that line, you have 'food' words to put on the other. For 'human' or 'person' however, you don't.

Again, I know there are historical reasons, but I'm not wondering about the taboo, I'm wondering if there ever has been a word for this?

There is the word 'flesh' and it kind of implies 'non-specific meat.' As in 'deer flesh' or 'cow flesh.' Although it has quasi-religious connotations as in 'flesh of my flesh' and 'take of my flesh and eat it.'

Maybe 'flesh' alone is the word, considering the religious usage in the symbolism of communion?

But is there something more specific for those unsettling times when humans may have had nothing else to eat but other humans for survival – à la the Donner party. This has happened throughout time so is there a hidden word in English or historical languages related to English for human as food meat?

Again, I'm not trying to be grim or unsettling. I've seriously wondered about this for several years.

Best Answer

There be some as call it long pig.