« Alternative History of Art? | Main | Color me Illuminated! »

Today's Blogliner asks, "Have you ever received a gift that you absolutely hated?" . Well... not that I hated it, but I just have to comment on my last gift from my husband, who came back from an out-of-town shoot (he's a "sound man") bearing gifts. But he's Greek, and you know what they say about Greeks and gifts, don't you? Anyway, he proudly presented me with, and I quote, "A Head of Cheese" (since this village where they were shooting is famous for its cheese. Plus I think the mayor gave these out to all the crew members as a goodwill gesture, so it was a pretty easy gift...).

The loveliest thing about this offering is really just his use of the precise term "A Head of Cheese", which as far as I know is a perfectly respectable, but incredibly archaic term for "a block of cheese" (I'll have to ask Languagehat about this). So, how does he come up with these phrases? That's what I want to know. Was he an 18th Century English burgher in another life? Anyway, this Blogliner inspiration not only gives me the opportunity to embarrass my husband (and isn't that what love is all about?), it also gives me the chance to present you with this actually quite wonderful memorial "head of cheese" pattern. Please enjoy it every bit as much as I have.

Posted by taz on May 30, 2004 at 07:03 AM in Blogliners | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Head of Cheese?:


ooooooo. Suddenly i'm just DROOLING for mac and cheese!

wipe, wipe

Posted by: anan | May 30, 2004 3:50:19 PM

'Fraid I know of know such expression, nor does the OED (which has, under "head," both "head-cheese" and "cheese-head" -- 'the head of a rivet or screw shaped like a squat cylinder' -- but nothing involving chunks of actual cheese). And if you google "head of cheese" you sure enough find them for sale -- but it turns out to be a statuette of a guy with a round of cheese on his head. My tentative hypothesis is that he's translating a Greek expression; I don't find it as such in my dictionaries, but one of the definitions for "kephali" is "katheti pou moiazei me kephale," so maybe that covers it. I'm afraid you'll have to ask your husband if you want to get to the bottom of this.

Posted by: language hat | May 31, 2004 9:05:20 AM

Yeah, that statuette thing totally blankets the results, so I couldn't find any information about the phrase itself, either, but I was positive I had come across it before - and finally I was able to find the term on a couple of pages, in "The Compleat Diaries of Henrietta Fubsyface" and "Blood of Amber" from the Amber Chronicles. The phrase appears near the bottom and is highlighted in yellow on both these pages.

(You are right though, he was actually translating from the Greek, which does use this phrase.) But, hey, what up with the mighty OED? They just don't, evidently, seem to have a head for cheese!

Posted by: taz | May 31, 2004 11:23:07 AM

I've posted a query at WordOrigins, so stop by there to see what develops.

Posted by: language hat | May 31, 2004 3:04:20 PM

a slightly-racist, old israeli joke on similar topic (i'm sure your husband will get it with no problems, even if you don't see the humor in it at all):

an arab wanted to buy his wife a mercedes, but he didn't have enough money, so he bought her 2 kilos of olives

Posted by: grow-a-brain | May 31, 2004 11:37:00 PM

I'm sure I've heard the term "head of cheese" plenty of times, at least when I was young (and not just in the Amber series.) It's odd, but it sounds perfectly natural to me. Or maybe I read it in old English literature? Medieval lit? Or a translation of Canterbury Tales? Or a translation of the Decameron, which is kind of Canterbury Tales as well? I seem to recall monks eating dinner: loaves of bread and heads of cheese. Wine, maybe. Not sure.

Of course, "Head cheese" is the disgusting stuff:


Posted by: shane | Jun 1, 2004 12:20:05 PM

Yup; any recipe that begins it's instructions with "clean hog head by removing eyes..." just isn't going to do it for me.

Here's a great poem by James Tate that opens with "A head of cheese"; unfortunately this Ploughshares page (near bottom) that briefly discusses it brings up another mystery for me when it says: "In this way (hearsay), a poem like "Wild Cheese" (CD, 15) becomes a sort of Popa-like myth about a cheese-like person or person-like cheese; the poem originates, really, from the scrap of colloquial language that ends the poem: "That certainly was a wild cheese!"

Wild cheese? Colloquial language? What would that be, I wonder? I just don't know. But this is making me kind of hungry... Anan, pass some of that mac and cheese over here.

Posted by: taz | Jun 1, 2004 9:50:24 PM

Um, by "translation" of Canterbury Tales, I technically meant a modern version, not a translation, you know, from English to English. You know.

Posted by: shane | Jun 3, 2004 12:58:34 PM