Monday, 7 June 2010

organic and boulevard

I have a friend who complains about the term organic food. Isn't all food organic, he says. My response is yes, but that's the neat thing about language - a word can have more than one meaning. Organic has been used in connection with farming without chemicals since 1861, so it's here to stay. Interestingly, the earliest use of organic in English was "designating the jugular vein", and if the meaning can change from that to "relating to organs", then to "having the characteristics of a living organism", there's no reason why it can't change further to "of, relating to, or derived from living matter" then to "of food: produced without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals" (OED).

The Proto-Indo-European root is *werǵ- "to do". The o-grade *worǵ- became Greek ὄργανον "tool", and English organ. And also ὄργια "secret rites, secret worship", and English orgy.

The suffixed form *werǵ-o- became English work. Boulevard seems to be a French borrowing of a Germanic word akin to English bulwark, the second element of which is related to work. The first element is either bole or something like the Middle High German boln "to throw". So a bulwark, and a boulevard, is etymologically either a "work constructed from tree trunks", or "catapult".

No comments :