August 5, 2014


I was all jazzed up today to write about the origin of the word mushroom. Mush + room? I will grant you that it's a bit mushy when you cook it, but in it's natural state it resembles styrofoam more than mush. And room. There is no room in a mushroom unless you count its gills. And there isn't much room in those anyway.
I thought such a contradictory and interesting word would have an interesting history. I was right in that no one can agree on its origins, but all of the theories put forth are mediocre.
  • "[P]erhaps from Late Latin mussirionem"  
  • "might as well be borrowed from French."  
  • "of uncertain origin."   
  • "a word of pre-Latin origin, used in the North of France;"  
  • "usually is held to be a derivative of French mousse"moss" 
  • "properly 'applied to variety which grows in moss'" 
  • "nothing in common" with moss
I call bullsh*t.
So, let's say instead that one day in the 11th century (this is a very old word!!) Gervase (I have always wanted to write about a Gervase) is walking in the woods in Burgundy (why not?) and trips on a branch and falls on his face into a (as-yet-unnamed) mushroom patch at which time he curses, "MAH SRUME!" because he has broken his nose and the ancient Burgundian word for nose is NU (not really), but he can't say "my nu" correctly because his nose is broken. His friend who is looking on unhelpfully, makes note of the fact that the little umbrella-shaped (which he is familiar with since umbrellas were invented in 21AD) items growing on the forest floor are mushrooms.

Pass it on. (If enough people say it's true, it becomes true. I learned that from Fox News.)

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