Ox The former is Norman, and the latter Saxon. The Normans had
the cooked meat, and when set before them used the word they were
accustomed to. The Saxon was the herdsman, and while the beast was
under his charge called it by its Saxon name.
“Old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon title while he is under
the charge of serfs and bondsmen; but becomes Beef, a fiery
French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are
destined to consume him.” —Ivanhoe.
Weaver's beef of Colchester, i.e. sprats, caught abundantly in the
neighbourhood. (Fuller: Worthies.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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