Monday, March 10, 2014

Grammar Lesson: Palate, Palette and Pallet

If you’re a beer enthusiast, no doubt you’ve said the word “palate” quite often, but if you’ve used it in the written form, chances are pretty good you’ve misused it (as I often have). So, for this week’s blog, I thought it would be fun to do a quick educational segment on the three versions of this word and their various sub-definitions.
NOTE: all definitions are taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

1:  the roof of the mouth separating the mouth from the nasal cavity
a :  a usually intellectual taste or liking palate
> b :  the sense of taste
If you’ve been to a beer fest or a bottleshare or any kind of marathon drinking event, chances are pretty good you’ve experienced “palate fatigue.” That would refer to your physical palate. But “palate” can also refer to your metaphysical sense of taste – e.g. what tastes and flavor combinations appeal to you. I’m sure there are plenty of blogs, essays and even books on the subject of the cultural or geographical sense of “palate.”
It’s something I find fascinating, actually. Do people of different races and ethnicities have a genetic predisposition towards, or a tolerance of, certain flavors? And if so, how did that originate? Maybe someone who’s studied culinary arts or anthropology can answer this, though to me it’s more of a rhetorical question. I always say people should eat and drink what they like and not mock others for having a different palate. Though, I do think we should all keep an open mind and not immediately dismiss food and drinks that seem strange to us.
Let’s not forget the classic definition of “palate” refers to the roof of your mouth. I’m not sure how it evolved to describe a different part of your mouth, though. Just bear this in mind next time you’re at the dentist and they say they’re going to inject Novocain into your palate. They’re talking about the roof of your mouth, not your tongue.
Mnemonic device: “Palate” only has one e, just like the word “me.” Or: palate is all about me.
1:  a thin oval or rectangular board or tablet that a painter holds and mixes pigments on
a :  the set of colors put on the palette
b (1) :  a particular range, quality, or use of color (2) :  a comparable range, quality, or use of available elements palette
of tones and timbres> palette of flavors> I’ve read a lot of beer reviews where people have used “palette” to refer to their sense of taste, when they actually meant “palate.” Though, this variation of the word can definitely be applicable when describing beer. The difference being that you’re not referring to your own palate, but the beer’s composition of flavors. For example, you might describe a Belgian beer as having a palette of fruits and spices, while an American IPA has a citrusy palette.
Most people probably associate this word with the classic first definition, or any kind of finite spectrum of color or sound. It’s often used to describe the color scheme of visual art. You might hear gamers use the word in reference to describe a game’s “sound palette”. In the world of beer, we use it to describe the flavors of a specific beer or a general style.
Mnemonic device: “Palette” has two e’s, just like the word “beer.”
First definition:
1:  a straw-filled tick or mattress
2:  a small, hard, or temporary bed

Second definition:
1:  a wooden flat-bladed instrument
2:  a lever or surface in a timepiece that receives an impulse from the escapement wheel and imparts motion to a balance or pendulum
3:  a portable platform for handling, storing, or moving materials and packages (as in warehouses, factories, or vehicles)
Heh. I actually wasn’t aware there were so many definitions, let alone sub-definitions of the word “pallet” until I looked it up just now. It’s funny that the most common usage of the word is also the last definition in the dictionary.
I don’t think I have to tell you that this incarnation is quite different than the previous two. I don’t think beer enthusiasts talk about wooden platforms that often unless they work for a wholesaler or a beer store. So if you’re using the word “pallet” in a blog or a review, chances are pretty good you’re using it incorrectly. Coming up with a mnemonic device for this was difficult, but I think I’ve got one:
Mnemonic device: Since “pallet” originally meant “temporary bed,” think of wooden pallets as temporary beds for cases of beer.