"Ear" of corn etymology

Adelaide T C Carpenter atc12 at mole.bio.cam.ac.uk
Fri May 17 09:48:02 EST 2002


That was a good answer, Leszek, but I think the question was "Why is the
word 'ear' used for this type of inflorescence?"  (as opposed to eye or
nose or throat, for example).  I confess I do not know the answer to that
question but I do know why the word "corn" is applied to the kernels.
"Corn" used to be descriptive of size (and probably of shape too);
anything the size of a grain of wheat was corn-sized, which is why
wheat is also called "corn" (in the UK).  I deduce that the Indian maize
being described as "corn" by the early Europeans was a tad smaller in
the kernel than modern maize.  Anyway, this older meaning of the word
"corn" can still be seen in e.g. the name "corned beef";  "corn" here
describes the size of the salt crystals used in the curing -- neither
maize nor wheat have anything to do with it!

Adelaide





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