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In Wikipedia, specifically at the entry on the Middle English creole hypothesis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_English_creole_hypothesis

it appears that ‘agnew’ is being listed as being the aristocratic form of ‘lamb meat’, but I cannot find confirmation of that anywhere, including the online dictionary of Merriam-Webster. Can anyone confirm/refute this entry?

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All I can tell you is that 'agneau' is French for lamb, but you probably knew that. –  Barrie England Feb 1 '12 at 13:36
    
It is no longer on Wikipedia –  Henry Feb 1 '12 at 15:10
    
Fixed at Wikipedia. –  MετάEd Feb 1 '12 at 15:17
    
Thanks, everybody! –  Hexagon Tiling Feb 1 '12 at 21:30
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've never heard or seen this, and the OED doesn't list it. It looks to me as if somebody took as examples the Norman French mouton for mutton and boeuf for beef, as opposed to Saxon sheep and cow, (which are well-known), and decided to buttress the argument by adding in agnew without checking whether it is actually used.

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Very clearly, this was a joke, belittling once again Spiro T. Agnew, once Vice-President of the United States under the Nixon administration (q.v). Agnew was forced to resign under indictment for corruption, shortly before Nixon was forced to resign under threat of impeachment, leaving the United States with an unelected President and Vice-President. These were all Republicans, and there is a vicious presidential election going on right now. –  John Lawler Feb 1 '12 at 17:42
    
I've up-voted and accepted your answer. –  Hexagon Tiling Feb 1 '12 at 21:31
    
It's interesting to note that we use mutton, beef, pork for the cooked forms, even though they were taken from the Norman conquerors names for the living animals. I think that's because our ancestors had to serve it cooked to them demned French overlords in their castles and manors, so over time the meat on the boss's plate came to be known by the boss's word for it. The peasant working on the farm just had to carry on shovelling lamb/cow/pig-shit, so he continued using his existing native word for the source thereof. –  FumbleFingers Feb 13 '12 at 22:20
    
@Johnlawler: I think you're right (demonstrating again the flaw with Wikipedia). If you make that an answer, the people who keep upvoting my answer can vote for yours instead. (I certainly would). –  TimLymington Feb 14 '12 at 10:37
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