Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 16:50:46 -0400
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
Subject: Re: implications and inferences
My OED has an Old English citation of "corn" from King Aelfred in 888
AD. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if Barry Popik can find an earlier
one, but meanwhile that doesn't jibe very well with Duane's
grandmother, who doubtless had other virtues and strengths than
etymology... Also, maize (Zea mays) was certainly known on the eastern
coast as well, long before Europeans penetrated to Iowa. Does anyone
know if the N. American coast was the first meeting of "corn" and the
thing it names? or was maize known earlier in souther parts of the
i don't know the geography of "corn", but just wanted to point out
that the word is not dead in british english--it just means grain
generically (or as the concise oxford says, usu. the chief grain of
a region). the meaning was narrowed in american english, but you can
see its older meaning in the word "barleycorn". bill bryson, in
_made in america_ relates the story of the british government
requesting so many tons of corn during (after?) WWII from the u.s.
of course, the americans sent maize, but what the british were
wanting was wheat.
anyone else remember those mazola ads in the 70s where the actress in
a leather dress says, with great seriousness, "you call it corn, but
we call it maize"? not if you were a non-spanish speaking north
american, honey. (the word seems to have carib origins, if my
dictionaries are to be trusted.)
incidentally, in south african english "mielies" (from afrikaans) is
more common than "maize" (in my experience). like "corn", "mielies"
evolved from being a more general word for grain to a specific word
for maize. considering that it's the staple here, that's not
surprising--but i don't know if the maize-specific meaning goes back
to european dutch or whether it's a south african invention.