Hospitality in Hospitals?

When I was 15 years old,  I started working in the hospitality business at a small English Pub as a Busboy. I went to school and studied cooking and hospitality management and after graduating in Hospitality and Tourism Management, continued a career in restaurants and hotels. I was first introduced to hospital feeding at the age of 33 and at that time wanted to bring hospitality to hospitals. It only seemed right. It only seemed natural to me.

Today I wondered why the word hospital is inside the word hospitality. I was curious as to why it took me so long to ask this question of myself. So, being motivated and curious, I did a little digging. Apparently, English took hospitality from French hospitalité, which derives from Latin hospitalitas. That word was formed ultimately from Latin hospes “host”, referring to the notion of hosting guests or travelers. A hospital was originally a house where pilgrims or travelers could stay or be entertained (synonym: hospice), so the host offering shelter to such people was said to be showing them hospitality. That word dates from the middle of the 14th century, a time when many pilgrimages were being made to holy sites (cf. The Canterbury Tales). There is a host (pun intended) of words coming from the Latin source.

Meantime, hospitality’s meaning has changed very little since Middle English. It is used a bit more freely now, of course, to refer to the hotel and restaurant industries – each of those industries supplying a place to stay or food to eat for travelers and pilgrims, be they on their way to a holy site or an important business meeting. There is a  jocular use of hospitality which we find amusing: “To partake of (or enjoy) His/Her Majesty’s hospitality” means to be in jail (in the U.K.)!

And so, hospital was really a large house or inn and that word started to be used in that context in 1300. The fact that those that operated the inn were seen to be hospitable does show a definitive connection between the words and the actions we partake in today in hospital feeding – that meaning, bringing hospitality to the hospital is only natural, right, and should be a part of our mission and daily objectives. Perhaps we should change the name of our Foodservice and Nutrition Department to simply say “Hospitality” ?

Photo Credit: wilding.andrew via Compfight cc