From Dustin Oakley:
I thought I should point out that your etymology for
logical, is not technically correct. It is a common myth. Here is a quote:
The term "Vegetarian" was coined in 1847.
It was first formally used on
September 30th of that year by Joseph Brotherton and others, at
Northwood Villa in Kent, England. The occasion being the inaugural meeting of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom.
The word was derived from the Latin "vegetus," meaning whole, sound,
fresh, lively; (it should not be confused with "vegetable-arian" - a mythical human whom some imagine subsisting entirely on vegetables but
no nuts, fruits, grains etc!)
Prior to 1847, non-meat eaters were generally known as "Pythagoreans"
or adherents of the "Pythagorean System," after the ancient Greek "vegetarian" Pythagoras.
The original definition of "vegetarian" was "with or without eggs or
dairy products" and that definition is still used by the Vegetarian Society today. However, most vegetarians in India exclude eggs from
their diet, as did those in the classical Mediterranean lands, such as Pythagoras.
Or straight from the site that you linked to
The Vegetarian Society created the word vegetarian from the
Latin 'vegetus' meaning 'lively' (which is how these early vegetarians claimed their diet made them feel) in 1847 and it has
always excluded fish and fish products such as caviar.
Thanks for the interesting newsletter/site. I hope you will update
"A common myth"? Both of the sources you
cite are incorrect. As we noted in last
week's Words to the Wise, vegetarian appears for the first
time in the written record in 1839:
I had had to be my own cook, I should inevitably become a
This from the journal of a gentleman living on a
plantation in Georgia, in the U.S.! The word was probably around for
a few years prior to this instance of it. The definition applied to
the 1839 usage is "One who lives wholly or principally upon vegetable
foods; a person who on principle abstains from any form of animal food, or
at least such as is obtained by the direct destruction of life." This
is all well before the claims that it was coined in 1847.
It is true that Pythagorean
was used to refer to a person who did not eat flesh, but it wasn't a
common term. Incidentally, the followers of Pythagoras also refused
to eat beans.
We have been unable to find
any evidence that vegetarian derives from vegetus
rather than vegetable.
From Tony Hill:
The latest issue with the vegetarian - bad hunter discussion stunned me.
My teenage son (an avid carnivore) has used that saying for several years, firmly intending it as a joke among his vegetarian friends [yes,
he really has some yet]. Tell your readership to lighten up! To quote Foghorn Leghorn, "It's a joke, son.
I say, it's a joke!"
Mike was a vegetarian for 20 years and was familiar with that joke
etymology, but we do have to stick up for our readers in that it's often
very difficult to distinguish facts from fiction in e-mail. In the
kind of informal writing used in e-mail, one does not have the luxury of a
facial expression or tone of voice to help distinguish a joke from a
serious statement. And etymologies, both sound and horribly
spurious, are rampant in e-mail these days.
From Chandra McCann:
I found it quite entertaining to learn that the American vegetarian
movement was initiated by two people named Cowherd and Metcalfe.
I wonder if their surnames engendered their sensitivity to the consumption
of bovine creatures.
Hello there, it's good to see you back, especially for those who
sometimes think they know better than you do ... like me. Regarding your
answer to Graham Crowley ("Lingua Franca (literally "the French
tongue"), by the way, was a mixed language or jargon used in the eastern
Mediterranean, consisting largely of Italian words deprived of their
inflections.") I must tell you I think Lingua Franca means any third
language which is used by speakers of two different languages. So, being
German without any knowledge of Italian, if I should meet an Italian who
doesn't speak any German, but some English, we would use English as a Lingua Franca.
Confidence is a good thing, and you display much of it! However, lingua
franca, used to refer to "any mixed jargon used between people
speaking different languages", is, in fact, a figurative use of the
original term which does refer to an actual, specific language used by merchants in
From Jeff Lee:
Although it's not related to the etymology of the
egg nog, you might be
mildly amused to know that the French term for it is lait de poule, or,
literally, "hen milk". (How does one milk a hen?)
Good one! In German it is bieresuppe
or, literally, "beer soup". That reminds us... the dessert
which is called a trifle in English is called Zuppa Inglese
("English soup") in Italian.
From Jack Day:
Your Japanese food dish on page 5 of TOWFI online reminded me of a line of
small Japanese-made kits for children marketed here in Australia some years
back. They were made of fine plywood, and were already cut out to be assembled into various animals. Giraffe was one I remember, but the one
which took my fancy was the beautiful winged insect called a "Butterfry".
([I] would probably have similar difficulties with some Japanese
We agree. (And that's
not a comment on our appearance.)
From Gil Ross:
Thanks for your web site.
It is interesting, intriguing and often funny, even if it isn't in
the Laughing Stock section. A propos of your "Engrish"
article, I had a recent fax from a
head of section of a major Japanese airline. In the address was typed, literally, "Fright
Operations Department". I really hope it isn't appropriate.
Remind us never to fly that
You state on your page that
The name Lucifer is
Latin for "light bearer" and derives from the Latin word for "light" which is lux. Thus, if
you really object to using words related to Lucifer, you will have to avoid anything with
lustre (from Latin lustrare, "to shine", probably from earlier luc-strare). Also, to be on the
safe side, we suggest that you cease lucubration (working by artificial light), forthwith.
However, this is incorrect, but is a common
mistake. The original Hebrew for Lucifer means "bright sounding" not "light bearer".
Lucifer was the chief musician archangel before he fell. Parts of his body were actual musical
instruments. It's all in the Bible. Hope this helps.
Actually, no, what we stated is not incorrect. The
word Lucifer is ultimately the Latin translation of a Greek word, not
a Hebrew one. Lucifer means "light bearer" as
discussed in Issues 53 and 63. The corresponding Greek word is phosphorus.
Lucifer was the Latin name for Venus, the morning star.
Interestingly, Lucifer appeared only once in the
Bible (Isaiah 14:12) where it is now more commonly translated as
"morning star". There is no reference in the Bible to a figure named Lucifer
(or now "morning star") being a musician, archangel, or anything
else but a king of Babylon. The passage in Isaiah was misinterpreted
by early Christians as a reference to an angel who fell from
heaven. Here it is from The Good News Bible:
King of Babylon, bright morning
star, you have fallen from heaven! In the past you conquered
nations, but now you have been thrown to the ground. You were
determined to climb up to heaven and to place your throne above the
highest stars. You thought you would sit like a king on that
mountain in the north where the gods assemble. You said you would
climb to the tops of the clouds and be like the almighty. But
instead you have been brought down to the deepest part of the world of the
This passage clearly addresses the
king of Babylon, and it is part of a parable against that king.
[We don't wish to
start a holy war so, please, no further letters on this subject unless you are a
Hebrew scholar and can shed some light on the original Hebrew term
translated as Lucifer/morning star. Thank you.]
From Doug Hansen:
I searched like a mad man for 20 minutes to settle an
argument. I got frustrated following three links at the Internet Public Library and confused their search forms with a word that does not
mean: "Fornication Under Consent of the King" or "For Unlawful Carnal
Knowledge". I insisted that the origin of that naughty word was in fact an acronym.
I would have persisted forever in my
ignorance, had you not had the courage to boldly give the true facts. Thank you.
We are happy to have
helped. For those who missed that discussion, it can be found here
(it is a frank discussion of the etymology of some coarse terms. Do
not follow the link if you are easily offended.).
I really enjoyed the newsletter this week and especially
thanks for the Mac link! I was about 50/50 for either getting on the site or
crashing. Works great now.
Glad it worked for you, Judith, and we've printed
your message to make other Mac users aware of the alternate menu
menu page (http://www.takeourword.com/index.html).
The Mac menu page is at http://www.takeourword.com/indexmac.html.