Chili Bowl! | by Alissa Wolenetz, Library Director

Chili Bowl is back! Join us for a night of trivia, chili and fixings from Harry’s Place, and good fun on Friday, January 20th at Jack’s Hanger. Doors open at 5:00 PM, chili starts at 5:30 PM, and trivia will get rolling at 6:30 PM. You can come as you are or on a team of up to 8 people. Cost is $20/person, but financial aid is available. You can pre-register at the Library until January 17th or sign up at the door. 

DO NOT ASK THE LIBRARIANS FOR HINTS ABOUT QUESTIONS. We will just lie our ears off. (But do let us know if you have non-Chili-Bowl questions. We’re happy to help you with those.) 

Okay, now for a bit of a digression. About words. The history of words. Or, in other words, etymology, the one true love of my life. 

The words “chili” and “bowl” have strikingly different histories. You can see that in these entries from the Online Etymology Dictionary:


also chilli, “pod or fruit of a type of American pepper, used as a condiment,” 1660s, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) chilli, native name for the peppers. Not named for the South American country. As short for chile con carne and similar dishes, attested by 1846.


“round, low vessel to hold liquids or liquid food,” Old English bolla “pot, cup, bowl,” from Proto-Germanic *bul- “a round vessel” (source also of Old Norse bolle, Old High German bolla), from [Proto-Indo-European] root *bhel- (2) “to blow, swell.” Formerly also “a large drinking cup,” hence figurative use as an emblem of festivity or drunkenness. In reference to a football-stadium 1913, originally one that is bowl-shaped.

So what’s so interesting about these? Do I just love definitions? (You’ve got me there, but that’s not all of it.) 

To me, the fascinating thing about this is how it shows us that the name of a library fundraiser in Montana in the 21st century is dependent on thousands of years of global history. Digging a little deeper into just these two words reveals quite a bit about the inner workings of the English we speak today, including how it has been shaped by a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language from over 5,000 years ago; the history of modern spices and the introduction of indigenous Central American languages in the last 550 years; and the commercialization of popular sports in the 20th century. 

Who knew? 

(The librarians did. This is why we write the trivia questions and help you find answers to yours.) 

Happy 2023! 

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