Origins of the BBQ
The origins of both the activity of barbecue cooking and the word itself are somewhat obscure.
Most etymologists believe that barbecue derives ultimately from the word barabicu found in the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean. The word translates as sacred fire pit and is also spelled barbicoa or barabicoa. The word describes a grill for cooking meat consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks.
Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing some meat (usually a whole goat) with a pot underneath it, so that the juices can make a hearty broth. It is then covered with maguey leaves and coal and set alight. The cooking process takes a few hours.
There is ample evidence that both the word and cooking technique migrated out of the Caribbean and into other cultures and languages, with the word moving from Caribbean dialects into Spanish, then French and English in the Americas. The word evolved into its modern English spelling of barbecue and may also be found spelled as bar-b-que, bar-b-q or bbq. In the south eastern United States, the word barbecue is used predominantly as a noun referring to roast pork, while in the southwestern states cuts of beef are often cooked.
The word barbecue has attracted two inaccurate origins from folk etymology. An often-repeated claim is that the word is derived from the French language. The story goes that French visitors to the Caribbean saw a pig being cooked whole and described the method as barbe à queue, meaning from beard to tail. The French word for barbecue is also barbecue and the "beard to tail" explanation is regarded as false by most language experts. The only merit is that it relies on the similar sound of the words, a feature common in folk etymology explanations. Another claim states that the word BBQ came from the time when roadhouses and beer joints with pool tables advertised Bar, Beer and Cues. According to this tale, the phrase was shortened over time to BBCue, then BBQ.