The reason you’re likely here reading this article is you need to know the spelling of “horderves” and not knowing it, you simply sounded it out. While the word may sound like horderves, this is not the correct spelling. The correct spelling of horderves is hors d’oeuvres.
Of course, it’s not always necessary to know how to spell the foods you serve. Nobody is going to know you don’t know how to spell the word correctly when you say “horderves” as you place out appetizers. On the other hand, if you’re writing an article and happen to want to talk about the appetizers you served using the “cuisine” word, it becomes a little more important to know the correct spelling.
Borrowing from the French
If you go into the origins of common words, you’ll discover that borrowing from the French is not that unusual: “cuisine” is basically French for cooking. Hors d’oeuvres is another word we have borrowed from the French. Directly translated, “hors” means “except” and “oeuvres” means “works.” This may not initially seem too helpful, but if you assume that the main course is “the works,” and you interpret “hors” as meaning “outside,” the phrase basically means “outside the main course.”
Now you know something that most English-speaking people never stop to think about. Is it useful? Possibly. You’re now in the position to give any dinner guests you may have over this little gem of information.
What probably won’t make the grade as dinner table conversation is all the common misspellings for the word, but now that you know how it’s spelled, you’ll be able to see them everywhere. Some get the “hors” bit right as well as the “d” and its apostrophe, but then they spoil it by spelling the last bit as “oueveres” for hors d’oueveres. You’ll be amazed at the number of permutations.
Perhaps one day, we’ll adopt the word into the English language by changing the spelling to one that makes more sense to us, in which case, it’ll likely become “horderves” or “orderves.”
Taking It to the Next Level
Aside from the many dishes that can make up starters or hors d’oeuvres, you also get two ways of serving hors d’oeuvres. You can place the dishes on the table and let everyone help themselves, or you can have somebody pass the dish around allowing guests to select what they want to eat. Now you can make the distinction between “table” hors d’oeuvres and “butler-style” or “butlered” hors d’oeuvres.
Not Quite the Same as Hors D’Oeuvres
Now that you know how to use this chic French word to describe starters, you need to be careful that you don’t get muddled up and use it in the wrong place. It will spoil the great impression you’ll make by knowing how to spell the word, how to serve them and what the French words actually mean.
Canapes are not hors d’oeuvres. Instead of being foods you use to start off a meal, they’re savory finger-snacks that are served at cocktail hour.
Antipasto is also not the same as hors d’oeuvres. Although it consists of a range of dishes served before a meal, the style will be Italian, and antipasto is always served at the table. You can still call it a starter, and if you want to use French, you could call it an entree.
A smorgasbord is also not the same as hors d’oeuvres. Like antipasto, it is served before the meal and consists of foods that are related to the Scandinavian culture from which the word has been borrowed.
You can now go forth and charm your dinner guests. You now not only know how to spell “hors d’oeuvres,” but how to serve them, what they are, and what they are not. Your culinary education may not be complete, but you’re off to a good start. At least you’ll never have to eat your words.
(Photo courtesy of Richard Munckton)