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In British English, a joint is a large piece of meat for cooking—and has been since the sixteenth century. It typically contains a bone (a leg, a rib, a shoulder) and is roasted. But in nineteenth-century America, the word was used for something rather different. This was the Victorian era, when direct reference to ‘legs’ was taboo. This was awkward when one wished to request that particular portion of the anatomy of a cooked chicken, turkey, etc. to be given to one. The solution was to euphemize the leg of such a fowl as a joint. Apparently it caused a certain amount of confusion among British visitors. Compare drumstick.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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