Burger - burgher

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Beware the homophones burger and burgher. They both have the vowel sound of 'bird', 'sir' and 'were', with the hard '-g-' of 'egg': IPA: /'bɜːrr/. Burger is a shortening of a longer word; burgher is a derivative. The two share an etymological root: for more see burgh.

  • A burger is a small round flat cake (or 'patty' in US English) made of minced (US 'ground') meat, bound with egg or a similar agent, and flavoured in various ways. This is the purist definition; in popular usage, it is the whole item: a sandwich made with a bun, sometimes toasted, enclosing the cooked meat and often many other ingredients - salads, sauces and pickles.
    • The classic burger - the Hamburger - is made of beef. The shortening has produced a suffix, as well as a free-standing word: -burger may be added to the name of other ingredients which are the chief attraction of other such round cakes, either as the central ingredient (e.g. porkburger and chickenburger) or as an ingredient additional to the central beef (e.g. cheeseburger, which has a topping of cheese on the beef inside the sandwich). A veggieburger is such a cake made with variable ingredients, whose common feature is that they are not derived from animals - they are suitable for vegetarians.
Etymological note: burger is a shortened form of hamburger, which originally means 'from [the German city of] Hamburg'. In Europe before the nineteenth century the foodstuff a hamburger was the type of sausage usually sold in Hamburg, as the frankfurter was (and still is) the type of sausage native to the city of Frankfurt. The use of hamburger, now almost universal, to mean the food item developed in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, originally as Hamburg steak or hamburger steak. This was shortened to hamburger in the early twentieth century, and the further shortening to burger by about 1940. Ham (cured pork) has no part in the etymology of hamburger, so the coinage beefburger is unnecessary.
  • A burgher is a citizen of a burgh. This word is used more in Scotland and on the continent of Europe (particularly in countries speaking Germanic languages) than in England, where the equivalent is burgess or in French-speaking countries, where the term is bourgeois. Burgher, like the other two, most usually carries connotations of respectability and being well-off, but it rarely bears, in England, the sense that 'burgess' has of being a Freeman, a specially privileged citizen, or even a member of the governing Council, of the burgh concerned.
    • Some special applications may be found historically.
      • In South Africa, particularly during the nineteenth century, burgher meant 'a Dutch- (or Afrikaans-) speaking citizen'. In the period leading up to and during the period of the Boer wars, it developed pejorative connotations and was widely used as an insult for Afrikaans-speakers .
      • In Sri Lanka (historically called Kandy and Ceylon), burghers are the descendants of the Portuguese, who first established a colony there in 1505, the Dutch, rulers of the island from 1658 to 1796 and various other non-English-speaking Europeans. This is a mixed-race community.
      • In Scottish religious history, a burgher was a member of a faction in the Scottish Secession Church who admitted the legality of the burgess oath of 1747 to uphold 'the true religion presently professed within this realm'. There was also a faction of anti-burghers.
The Burghers of Calais (Les bourgeois de Calais) is a group of six statues, cast in bronze, by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). One cast stands in the Victoria Tower Gardens by the Houses of Parliament in London, one in Calais and one in the Musée Rodin in Paris. The group represents an incident in Anglo-French history from 1347, when six citizens of Calais, it is said, were required to surrender themselves to Edward III with nooses already round their necks as part of the town's capitulation after a siege. Queen Philippa of Hainault (1310/15?-1369), being pregnant, pleaded with her husband for mercy, which he granted.