Industry. Industrial. Corpus. Corporal. Bride. Bridal. Right?

Until I read Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay, “Tiers and Laughers”, in his 2002 book It must’ve been something I ate, it never occurred to me that the -al at the end of “bridal” was anything other than a normal adjectival ending. Contrary to my every expectation, he confidently wrote that the word derived from “bride-ale”.

My education in food writing is nascent enough that this was the first time I’d read his work. An article in The Guardian, surveying food writers for the best food books of the last ten years, convinced me to give it a try. I brought it and a novel along to read on a train trip, and never made it as far as the novel. I was hooked on his compelling brand of food writing, investigative, honest, funny at his own expense, and knowledgeable. He wears his authority lightly, sprinkling deep insight in like ornament. No wonder his writing is so well-respected!

He was right. The OED confirms that bridal is an Old English alcoholic drink-turned-celebration, with its oldest known use to refer to a wedding party dating to around 1075. It supposedly comes from the tradition of the bride crafting a special brew to use in celebrating the wedding.

Friends, beer-lovers, were married last year. Pride of place went to the beers they’d commissioned from a local brewery for the event. I wonder if they knew how traditional, how bridal, their celebration really was?

*© S. Worthen 2009