Two days ago, I talked about how the word carnival literally means "a farewell to meat" because that's what everybody had to give up for Lent. The true meaning of Mardi Gras is exactly the opposite. Also a word for the day before Lent, just celebrated in a different culture, I never stopped to consider its literal translation. Okay, I'll spill: it means Fat Tuesday in French, because of all the food you'd plow into yourself right before the fasting started. Some of you knew that already, but let's trace it further. Mardi comes from the Latin word Martis, which meant "of Mars", the Roman god of war, after whom the day was named. Gras is from the Latin word crassus, meaning "dense" (not too different from "fat", really. This in turn comes from Proto-Indo-European kert, or "to weave", because of ropes or something. Anyway, Mardi Gras means not only fat Tuesday, but also of Mars to weave. Cool.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd