Friday, February 20, 2009


"Mull" in "mulled wine" does not mean "steep", as many people seem to think, myself included. At least that's according to the OED. I had had the notion of spices steeping in wine. Of course mull can also mean to moot coram se ipso.

The spiced meaning of mull is "not easy to connect satisfactorily", as the OED says:
[Of obscure origin.
It is not easy to connect the sense satisfactorily with that of mull v.1 It has been suggested that the vb. is f. mull n.1 applied to the powdered spices used in mulling; but there is no evidence of such a specific use of the n. Another unsupported conjecture is that the original sense may have been ‘to soften’, ‘render mild’ (cf. Du. mul soft) of which mull v.2 might be another application. Quite inadmissible is the notion, which appears in all recent Dicts., that mulled ale is a corruption of moldale (mould n.1) funeral banquet.]

trans. To make (wine, beer, etc.) into a hot drink with the addition of sugar, spices, beaten yolk of egg, etc.
I particularly like "quite inadmissible is the notion ...". In those days, PF (pussyfooting) was not the fashion. In my experience, PC is three-quarters PF.

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