"Ear" of corn etymology

Tobias Baskin BaskinT at missouri.edu
Tue May 21 08:53:43 EST 2002


Hi,
	This question about ears of corn and ears for listening is 
interesting. It turns out that both words have been used in English 
for a long time, nearly 1000 years. The OED lists quotes for both 
from years around 1000 AD. It also seems that they are independent. 
Ear for hearing comes from Latin, auris meaning ear for hearing, and 
this ear has given rise to all-sorts of related and modified 
meanings, eg "dog-eared page". The ear for grain (can be used for any 
cereal) comes from the Latin for acer meaning sharp. This root 
apparently also gave rise to "awn", another part of the cereal seed. 
The idea that ceral inflorescences are sharp seems also to be 
preserved by calling them spikes. The ear as in ear of corn seems to 
be used rather narrowly only for that meaning, with few modifications 
listed.  But anyway ear of corn and ear for hearing seem to have 
converged on the same sound, and not by shared meaning.

	Great question!
			Tobias Baskin




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