Derivation of "Agaric"

Stephen R. Berlant Berlant at
Wed Mar 27 07:01:26 EST 1996

In article <odomDotwou.JHI at>,
   odom at (Clifford Brian Odom) wrote:
>Stephen P. Bentivenga (invam at WVNVM.WVNET.EDU) wrote:
>: In response to the recent speculation on the derivation of "fly-agaric" 
>: Stephen R. Berlant wrote:
>: >To the contrary, it always seemed to me that "fly-agaric" must have been 
>: >derived from our word "agar" for a growth medium"; because, the mushrooms 
>: >odor, resembling that of rotting flesh, caused flies to lay their eggs on 
>: >as evidenced by popular reports that maggots appear on the mushroom soon 
>: >it starts to decay.
>: >
>: >I was wondering if anybody had any recent info that supported or refute 
>: >of these positions.
>: >
>: >My thanks in advance.
>: >
>: >Stephen R. Berlant 

>Technically, "agar" does not refer to growth media, it is simply an 
>additive used to solidify nutrient solutions. Agar is specifically used 
>for this task because it cannot be metabolized (provide nutrition) by 
>most organisms.

Imho, this technical definition of agar should probably be viewed as a 
refinement of the originally broader definition of the Malay etymon of "agar", 
"agar-agar", which referred to "a gelatinous material derived from certain 
marine algae". These algae are those that form seaweeds like kelp, rockweed, 
or gulfweed, which Polynesians and others have used as the "growth medium" we 
refer to as "fertilizer" from time immemorial, precisely because they can be 
and are metabolized by many organisms. 


Steve Berlant

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