Hot caffeinated beverages, more than any other kind of food in fantasy worlds, come with made-up names. Kavage, from Elizabeth Vaughan‘s Dagger-Star (and her other work, apparently), is one of them. It’s the only word for a food or drink which doesn’t exist in our world, in a novel containing, among other foods, raisins, turnips, and saffron.

It’s made by boiling water in a small copper pot, and then putting beans into it. (Are they ground? It’s not mentioned.) Despite this, at one point in the novel (p. 180), in what is possibly an error in the text, a pot of tea arrives. Immediately afterward, everyone is drinking kavage from cups. Whatever it is, it can be over-brewed, and is a dark and bitter. (p. 107) It’s drunk in a mug, and frequently had in the morning.

As a caffeinated beverage word, kavage struck me as one of the least intuitive I’ve encountered, because the letters made me think of so many other things instead. (The tea/coffee confusion in the text didn’t help either.) I kept thinking it might be cognate with “cabbage”, or perhaps a relative of the Vanuatan pepper-family drink “kava”, or perhaps related to the French “cavage” (excavation, hollow). But it’s not. It’s one of the many names for caffeine in one the many worlds of fantasy.

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*© S. Worthen 2009