Monday, December 17, 2007

Potato Poems

There is one batch of leftovers remaining to be served before the new year. (I take John Cleese's Linkman in Episode 18 as a cautionary tale against letting that metaphor get out of hand. So that'll be all.)

The potato post contained a couple of poems. In putting that together and subsequently, I have collected them in a low-key way. And come to the conclusion that there is pretty much an inexhaustible supply. I don't know how one would measure, really, but potato looks like it might well be the most popular vegetable for poetry.

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To keep the length of this post manageable and avoid copyright problems, I will not quote everything in its entirety. When it is readily available online, I will try to make it clear in the hyperlink that there is more there.

Without too much effort, I acquired two book-length potato poetry anthologies, An Anthology of the Potato and Spud Songs.

An Anthology of the Potato was published in 1961 for the Irish Potato Marketing Company, Ltd., Dublin in an edition of 500. It contains several centuries of Irish potato poems. All the poems are in English, or translated from Irish into English. The title page has this little ditty (apparently without attribution):

We praise all the flowers that we fancy
    Sip the nectar of fruit ere they're peeled,
Ignoring  the common old tater
    When, in fact, he's King of the Field.
Let us show the old boy we esteem him,
    Sort of dig him up out of the mud;
Let us show him he shares our affections
    And crown him with glory—Kind Spud

The opposite end has a list of proverbs, like “Mushrooms and potatoes—they go together.” Which probably means something profound, though I'm not clear what.

The Introduction to the Anthology notes the first “reference in metre to potato” in “An Account of an Irish Quarter” from Songs and Poems of Love and Drollery (1654):

And now for ſupper, the round board being ſpred;
The Van a diſh of coddled Onions led,
I'th' Body led a ſalted tail of Sammon
And in the Rear ſome rank Potatoes came in. (more)

Earlier occurrences outside an Irish context (and so outside the Anthology) run into a problem outlined in the earlier post: the likelihood that the word refers to the sweet potato. Either because of how they are prepared, as in A Terrible Battell (1606?):

Let them not want (I praie) Potato pies, (more)

Or their supposed aphrodisiac properties, as in The Most Elegant and Witty Epigrams (1618):

33 Against an old Lecher.

Since thy third carriage of the French infection,
Priapus hath in thee found no erection:
Yet eat'ſt thou Ringoes, and Potato Rootes,
And Caueare, but it little bootes. (more)

One of the earlier longer poems in the Anthology is “A Lament for the Potatoes in the Year of the Big Frost 1739,” by Seaghan O Connaire (pp. 43-45), which begins:

My great sorrow is that the nobles of the Gael
Are now in great distress,
Because all their means of livelihood
Have been destroyed by frost.

In the winter of 1739-40, the temperature never rose above freezing and was frequently in the single digits Fahrenheit. In London, the Thames froze solid and carriages moved and fairs were held on it. This poem is a translation from the Irish, but I cannot find the source given (RIA MS 23 T 12) in the online Bibliography of Irish Linguistics and Literature. But there is one there on the same topic, “Poem on the Great Frost of 1740”, by Séamas Mac Coitir. It can be found in Éigse 27 (1993; pp. 120-121). And since there's a world-class Irish Studies department down the hill from me, here it is:

Ní cogadh ná cargaill fhada idir airdríthibh
Ná stoirm na mara fé chaismearthaibh bárc biobha
Ná cloistin na n-arm chum leadartha dá líomhadh
Fá ngoilid fir Bhanba, a gclanna 's a mná timpeall,

Acht cogadh na ngarraithe a leagadh 's a lánscaoileadh
Cogadh na gcarad do dhealaigh na potátaí linn,
An cogadh so an tseaca do fearadh ón Airdrí orainn,
Seo an cogadh leo is measa 's is fairsinge ghnáthchaoinid.

Cogadh bheir ainnise is airc agus ár daoine,
Osna agus atuirse is mairg ar mhnáibh tí anois,
Bheir orchra im scartaibhse trasna gach tráth smaoinim
Gurb é moladh na marbh mo theastas a photátaí oraibh.

As listed, the poem occurs (with slight variation) in four manuscripts, but none of them have yet been scanned for (the very fun) Irish Script on Screen. So I haven't used an uncial font. Also, unfortunately, it has the opposite problem as the previous poem. I cannot find an English translation. And I am not up to it myself:

Naturally enough, many of the poems are about potato famines and blights, some with a more satirical tone. For instance, “The Potato Commission” by Professor Edward Forbes (pp. 71-72), which begins:

Have you heard the report—the last Edition—
Sent out by the Great potato commission,
Who crossed the water to find some new
Materials for an Irish stew? (more)

The subject is Peel's 1846 scientific commission to investigate the potato blight. Of additional interest here is a couplet later in the poem:

(Sure never since the days of Plato
    Was there such a row about a rotten potato!)

For all its appeal as a subject for poetry, there aren't many words in English that rhyme with potato. One that does, and is particularly popular in this kind of verse, is Plato. John Emerson, of Idiocentrism and frequent commenter at LanguageHat, traced Plato/potato back through Ransom and Gilbert to Byron's Don Juan (Canto VII, IV.) The same essay appears in the book of Idiocentrism essays, Substantific Marrow, for reading away from a computer (pp. 173-174). He does not quote the entire Byron verse, and since this is ottava rima (abababcc), there must actually be a second potato rhyme:

By Swift, by Machiavel, by Rochefoucault,
    By Fénélon, by Luther, and by Plato;
By Tillotson, and Wesley, and Rousseau,
    Who knew this life was not worth a potato.
'T is not their fault, nor mine, if this be so —
    For my part, I pretend not to be Cato,
Nor even Diogenes. — We live and die,
But which is best, you know no more than I.

The interesting thing is, potato/Cato is much older. In Tobias Smollett's The Reprisal (1757):

The brav'st chief, ev'n Hannibal and Cato,
Have here been tamed with—pinnin and potato. (more)

And the Irish Hudibras (1689):

Who can forget the Learned * Cato
That writ ſo much on a pottado (p. 142; also quoted here in the Potato chapter of a book of Irish songs)

The margin note

This is Cormack Mac Art, ſtyled, the Cato of Ireland. He writ a Treatiſe of the Vertues of a Pottado, beyond the Wiſdom of Solomon, the Knowledge of Ariſtotle, the Rhetorick of Cicero. Con. Clerenaugh, and Mureartagh O Collegan.

does not disqualify it, since the whole work is a parodic “transversion” of Aeneid VI to Fingal: there is no “Cato of Ireland.” Its other potato rhymes are Granadoes (i.e., grenades; p. 3) and Meadows (p. 86), which like potato/tomato only works in some dialects. The Irish Hudibras is also notable for being one of the earlier records of any length of “stage-Irish,” like in Thackerary's “Mr. Molony's Account of the Crystal Palace” (contrasted with Tennyson's somewhat more careful dialect attempt in “Tomorrow” from about the same time) and well through to Vaudeville.

It did not take long for Plato/potato to take hold. From Belfegor (1837 — a verse adaptation Belfagor arcidiavolo):

I deemed it not worth a potato,
Although the progeny of Plato. (more)

Or an interior rhyme from Robert MacNish's “Bacchanalian Song” (1833), “Who cares a potato for Solon or Plato.” Note that this song also has the Aristotle/bottle rhyme.

From Walter Landor's “Shakespeare in Italy” (1863):

I'd rather sup on cold potato,
Than on salmon cookt by Plato, (more)

So that by the turn of the century, the doggerel role is firmly established and things begin to get completely out of hand. “The Future of the Classics”:

No true son of Erin will leave his potato
To list to the love-lore of Ovid or Plato. (more)

Back in the more serious vein, another “A Lament for the Potato : A. D. 1739 : From the Irish” by “Speranza”:

There is woe, there is clamour, in our desolated land,
And wailing lamentation for a famine-stricken band; (more)

I have not seen any full reference to the Irish original. This translation first appeared in 1854, in the Dublin University Magazine, in an essay on “The Food of the Irish,” by Sir William Wilde. “Speranza” is the pen-name of Lady Wilde. Nowadays, this couple is perhaps best remembered as Oscar Wilde's parents. I don't know that Oscar quipped about potatoes in particular, but he did use them as a means of poking fun at the English diet, in an unsigned review of Dinners and Dishes by “Wanderer,” in the Pall Mall Gazette:

There are twenty ways of cooking a potato, and three hundred and sixty-five ways of cooking an egg, yet the British cook up to the present moment knows only three methods of sending up either one or the other.

More famine-inspired poetry can be found in The Hungry Voice : The Poetry of the Irish Famine.

A poem titled “To the Potato,” which was sometimes associated with Robert Burns, begins:

Guid e'en, my auld acquaintance cronie!
I'm glad to see thee bloom sae bonie; (more)

The discussion in Notes and Queries (s4-ii 339-340, 477, 614-615; s4-iv 371-372) seems to conclude that it was actually by an Alexander Clerk, from a book Poems on Various Subjects from 1801.

William Wilkie, “The Scottish Homer,” was known as “Potato Wilkie,” but alas not because of the subject of his poetry, but because he grew them.

Spud Songs : An Anthology of Potato Poems : To Benefit Hunger Relief was published in 1999 for that stated purpose. Most of the contents are included by permission of the living authors. Many major poets are represented, such as Seamus Heaney's “Digging” or Richard Wilbur's “Potato.”

The anthology has not one, but two, instances of the original snowclone, specifically about the number of words for 'potato' in Quechua. Ray Gonzalez contributes “In Peru, the Quechuans Have a Thousand Words for Potato” and Albert GoldbarthMishipasinghan, Lumchipamudana, etc.” I wish I knew where Goldbarth got those words in the title. Of course, at some level this is a not particularly remarkable truth. W. LaBarre's seminal “Potato Taxonomy Among the Aymara Indians of Bolivia” listed a couple hundred identifications and more modern studies of related folk taxonomies have apparently done likewise. And something similar would be expected of an Idaho potato farmer. So, then it is just a matter of what the slippery term word refers to.

Poem is defined rather broadly for some of the works. Nam June Paik contributed a photo of his Couch Potato, now permanently in the Joslyn Art Museum — with its fax machine answering at (402) 342-0091. Otto Piene refines the famous story of the rebus Jeu de paume between Frederick II and Voltaire by having the proposed meal consist of potatoes, which Frederick introduced to Prussia. Unfortunately, I do not think there is a picture online and I hesitate to scan something with so recent a copyright. Piene's is a little different from the usual form, having venez p / a à 6 / 100! (a sous p à cent sous six) “à souper à Sanssouci!” and J a (J grand a petit) “J'ai grand appetit.” And rough sketches of potatoes for themselves. Plus flags, as it would need to be decided which country's produce to have. (Does anyone know where this rebus story originates? Wikipedia is, not atypically, devoid of reference.)

All the poems proper are in English. But Rudolfo Anaya does contribute one titled, “La Papa,” which plays on the difference between papa and papá. It is not online or listed as having been published elsewhere. It begins:

In Spanish potato is papa.
As in papas fritas.
Papas in a chile con carne stew.

Papa is not Papá, which is father,
As in he who brings home the papas.

Pablo Neruda wrote a poem entitled “Oda a la papa,” this time playing on the difference between American Spanish papa and Iberian patata:

te llamas
y no patata, (more — but note that that transcription is imperfect on the next two lines: “no nasieste con barba, / no eres castellana:”; dozens of other copies on the net are incomplete and Google Books is No preview available; the only one I have found that is accurate is deep inside this Spanish lesson)

Translating this into English, Ken Norris has to use the pretend dialectal variation that really only exists for tomato:

you are called
not potahto; (more)

As noted above, it is not at all surprising that Quechua has a rich potato folk taxonomy. And as it is for the Irish, the potato is an important cultural symbol. Now apparently there is a long tradition among linguistic anthropologists of studies of folk taxonomies of hot peppers, aided in no small part by the inclusion of a term with obvious appeal to college students, lāda.balaynum.mahārat.qūtin.kutiq 'cat-penis houseyard chili pepper', in a Hanunóo plant taxonomy by Harold Conklin in these proceedings (work for which he had sought a grant from the James Joyce Society). Thus Joel Sherzer did a careful taxonomy for Kuna in his book and how it is projected in kapur ikar 'the way of the hot pepper', a curing chant for high fever. Which got Paul Friedrich thinking about the “poetry of peppers” in his book on the application of Sapir-Whorf to poetry. Which in turn motivated Regina Harrison to include a “The Poetry of Potatoes” section in the “Potato as Cultural Metaphor” chapter of Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes : Translating Quechua Language and Culture. Which gets us back from chili peppers to potatoes. She translates a potato song, of which this is the first verse:

Q'uñi uquchapi
papacha tarpusqay
icha manaraqchu
icha manaraqchu.

In the deep [earth] of Quni,
the potatoes [I] planted,
are they growing yet?
Are they [I wonder]?
Are the [tiny] potatoes forming?
Are they [I wonder]? (p. 190; substantially the same song here)

The earlier potato post included a Japanese potato fart poem, but it was in Classical Chinese, which may be cheating. Robin D. Gill specializes in producing English translations of Japanese poetry, and in particular of those with subject matter outside the usual popular themes, through his Paraverse Press. His The Woman Without a Hole & Other Risky Themes from Old Japanese Poems has a fart chapter (complete Table of Contents) with a yam fart senryū and a related folk-song that the poet, Issa, copied into his journal (pp. 373-374):

屁くらべや芋名月の草の庵  一茶
he-kurabe ya imo-meigetsu no kusa no an issa

comparing farts, for smell, for tune,
a grass hut below the yam full moon

かはい男は芋喰て死んだ 屁をひる度に思ひ出す
kawai otoko wa imo kutte shinda // he o hiru tabi ni omoidasu
(cute man-as-for yam-eating died // fart[obj] cuts time remember)

lover boy choked
on sweet potato tarts
she still recalls him
whenever she farts

Lest it seem that Japanese potato poems are always about flatulence, here is a famous haiku by Bashō about looking for Saigyō's old hut and finding a woman rinsing vegetables in a stream instead:

芋洗ふ女 西行ならば 歌よまむ
imo arau onna / saigyō naraba / uta yoman

A woman washing potatoes;
if Saigyō were here,
he would be write waka. (tr. Blyth)

Since some amount of ambiguity is usual in the form, this one actually has three non-crazy interpretations:

  1. If Saigyo were here, he'd write a waka.
  2. If Saigyō were the one here (i.e., if I, Bashō, were / could be Saigyō), I'd write a waka.
  3. If Saigyō were here, she (the woman) would write a waka.

More generally, potato is a 季語 kigo 'season word', required in a standard haiku:

  • Spring: 馬鈴薯 / 芋 植える bareisho / imo ueru 'planting potato(es)'; 種芋 tane imo 'seed potato(es)'.
  • Summer: じゃが芋の花 jyagaimo no hana 'potato flower'.
  • Fall: 馬鈴薯 / 芋 bareisho / imo 'potato; yam'.
  • Winter: 焼き芋 yakiimo 'baked potato'.

One of the earliest works of a young Adam Mickiewicz, the Polish (or Lithuanian or Belarusian) poet, was “Kartofla” 'Potato'. The region was still suffering from the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the increased yield of potatoes over grain averted much starvation in 1816-1818. Intending it as an epic in the neo-classical style of Voltaire, he wrote two cantos in 1819, of which only the first survives, and an additional fragment in 1821, presumably intended as the beginning of the third. Evidently only that fragment is online. The conceit of the poem is that the Olympic gods have been driven from Europe to America by Christianity and out of concern for their new Indian charges halt Columbus in mid-ocean. (cf. Os Lusiadas) They are driven away by the Catholic saints, but the matter remains whether the discovery of America is a net-gain and should be allowed or not. The arguments include predictions by Saint Raphael of the New World and its freedoms. But the scales are tipped by Saint Dominic, who holds up the potato. Likewise, he averts mutiny by the men by throwing down a potato, thereby indicating that land is near. Part of his oratory description is:

Ten zboża w ziemię rzuca, sad innego trudzi,
Wtem mróz podetnie drzewa, nasiona wystudzi;
A kartofla, w głąb warstę przekopawszy skrzepłą,
Na łonie wielkiej matki potrzebne ma ciepło
I owoc z tysiącznego dająca porostu,
Wygłodzonych oraczów zachowa od postu. (ll. 391-397 Dzieła Poetyckie : 1 - Wiersze p. 429; snippet)

This one sows corn, orchard is another one's toil,
When sudden frost undercuts trees and chills seeds in the soil.
But the potato, down deep in the ground lies still,
In great mother's bosom all needed warmth feels
And fruit of thousands giving its growth, thus
Will all hungered ploughmen preserve from fast. (tr. Lisinska and Leszczyński)

Fans of Mad Magazine will probably recognize potrzebne 'needed' as closely related to potrzebie 'as needed' < potrzeba 'need (n.)'

Menke Katz wrote poetry in Yiddish and English. If he wrote a potato poem in Yiddish, I haven't come across it. But he was a vegetarian from childhood and a baked potato was his standard fare when dining out. Here is his “Hymn to the Potato”:

O my first hymn was to the potato,
lure of my childhood, fruit of the humble,
the diurnal festival of the poor.

No fruit is noble as the potato.
Cherries are coy, plums have hearts of true stone.
The wind is a drunk fiddler at the grape.

The potato knows how much light there is
in the fertile darkness of seeded earth,
kissing the dust to which Adam returned.

On the hungry alleys of my childhood,
The Milky Way was a potato land. (Rockrose, p. 62; snippet)

Here is Katz' NYT obituary. He really should have a Wikipedia page, but then Melech Ravitch (also a vegetarian) doesn't even appear in the list of Yiddish poets and only has a Hebrew page: a bit of a mess, as always.

James Joyce, the master of puns, could not fail to notice the resemblance between poem and French pomme (de terre) 'potato', particularly if the former is spelled as in his Pomes Penyeach. And indeed, Finnegans Wake has:

pome by pome, falls back into this terrine (80.22)

A potato meta-poem.

Update: MeFi reminds us that 2008 is the United Nations International Year of the Potato; since it looks like it was indeed the last post of the year, consider the above a segue.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shredded Wheat

My breakfast has been the same most every day for several decades: shredded wheat with soy milk.

Shredded wheat, along with corn flakes and grape-nuts, is one of the staple American cold breakfast foods invented at the end of the 19th century by vegetarian food faddists. They have made contributions, sometimes major ones, to the development of consumer marketing, intellectual property law, and vocabulary.

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In addition to specific sources cited below, the following books cover the threads that intersect here in more depth:

  • Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal presents that history from the point of view of popular culture and consumerism.
  • Vegetarian America : A History is full of additional interesting characters with nothing to do with breakfast, like Emarel Sharpe Freshel, who lived not too far from here (where her home stood, there is now a BC dorm), where she regularly had high-society vegetarian get-togethers. She also organized an annual vegetarian Thanksgiving at the then new Copley Plaza. She knew Tolstoy and Shaw (who may have given her the nickname Emarel from her initials M. R. L.), and met Dharmapala when she attended the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions as a Christian Scientist. (The dedication of the somewhat biased The Incredible World's Parliament of Religions has her converting to Buddhism as a result of this, and it may well have been an eventual influence, but other sources indicate that she did not leave that church until 1917 over its stance on entry into WWI.) She designed her next-door neighbor's house and may have done the original sketches for the design of the highly prized Tiffany Wisteria lamp, as part of her instructions to Tiffany for decorating her home. This has been called into question by the discovery earlier this year of the letters of Clara Driscoll, where Driscoll takes credit for it. I am hardly an expert, but these two claims do not seem to actually be in conflict, if we assume that the sketches only gave a rough description of wisteria in leaded glass. Emarel's grand-niece has a blog, where bits of family history seem to show up occasionally.
  • Listening to America : An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from our Lively and Splendid Past has a few pages (131-133) on breakfast food names, among similarly sized essays on many other topics.

It all starts with Sylvester Graham, inventor of Graham flour, whole wheat flour made by adding back the bran and germ, but more coarsely ground than the base white flour, and the Graham cracker. Graham advocated abstinence from pretty much everything, including meat, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine (okay so far), sex and chocolate.

James Caleb Jackson was a Grahamite who promoted hydrotherapy and a vegetarian diet as cure-alls. In 1863, he developed the first industrial dry cereal, made from granules of Graham flour, which he called Granula. He ran an institution in Dansville, NY, called Our Home on the Hillside and so formed a company to sell his cereal known as the Our Home Granula Company. They also made a grain-based coffee substitute known as Somo.

Jackson's water cure and cereal found favor among Seventh-day Adventists, who have a strong vegetarian tradition. (There used to be a vegetarian restaurant in downtown Boston run by Adventists. It was a victim of the Big Dig, barely surviving during the endless construction and then unable to afford the jacked up rents once that was over.)

John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist doctor who ran their Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI. Here he carried out experiments to develop an improved cereal, which he also called Granula. When Jackson objected, he changed the name in 1881 to Granola. Some sources say that there was only the threat of legal action, others that Jackson actually won a judgment against Kellogg (though none give a case reference). We will see even more of this kind of discrepancy presently. Here are a couple ads for the Battle Creek Sanitarium's Granola.

Modern granola appears in the mid-1960s. The earliest reference to modern granola in the OED is from this 1970 Time magazine article, though uses from a year or more before that aren't hard to find in ads in digitized newspaper archives. Any connection with the earlier kind is not entirely evident, but nor is it ruled out. Though there are several other claimants, a major promoter of granola was Layton Gentry, profiled in Time as Johnny Granola-Seed. In 1964, Gentry sold the rights to a granola recipe using oats, which he claimed to have invented himself, to Sovex Natural Foods, a company making a concentrated paste of brewers yeast and soy sauce by that name, founded in 1953 in Holly, MI by the Hurlinger family, and bought in 1964 by John Goodbrad and moved to Collegedale, TN. In 1967, Gentry sold the West Coast rights to Wayne Schlotthauer of Lassen Foods in Chico, CA. The Hurlingers, Goodbrads, and Schlotthauers were all Adventists and it is possible that Gentry had some Adventist association. Furthermore, in Joe Klein's article “A Social History of Granola” in the Feb. 23, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone, Schlotthauer claimed that his grandmother was making something called “granola” when she came over from Germany in 1912 and that he was making small batches of the wheat-based version in 1957 at his father-in-law's health food bakery (which would become Lassen Foods). In 1972, Pet Milk (later Pet Incorporated) introduced granola under the Heartland Natural Cereal brand; it was the brainchild of Jim Matson, who is the main subject of Klein's article. At almost the same time, Quaker introduced Quaker 100% Natural Cereal, followed shortly by Kellogg's Country Morning and General Mills Nature Valley. In 1974, McKee Baking, makers of Little Debbie snack cakes, purchased Sovex. In 1998, they also acquired the Heartland brand and moved its manufacturing to Collegedale. (That Heartland page claims that Matson introduced Heartland Natural Cereal in 1968, but that appears to be before he was even working for Pet.) In 2004, Sovex's name was changed to Blue Planet Foods. This JSTOR article (and a couple that it references that are also in JSTOR and to which it'll nicely hyperlink) relates granola to other -ola neologisms, including generalizations of payola for all kinds of financial scandals and foods like Mazola. Though it does not mention it, canola also fits the pattern. As near as I can determine, that name came from a 1978 committee for establishing a trademark to regulate its quality. Imagine if it they had gone with CanAbra oil or kept LEAR (for low erucic acid rapeseed) oil.

Meanwhile, back in 1892, a Denver lawyer and entrepreneur named Henry Perky had teamed up with a Watertown, NY machinist named William H. Ford to invent a machine (U.S. Patent 502,378) to make shredded wheat. Perky set up his Cereal Machine Company in Denver, where he soon realized that selling the product would be superior to selling the machines for home use. So he moved to Boston (on Ruggles St. in Roxbury, I think, though I'm not sure where) and then Worcester and then to Niagara Falls to take advantage of the cheap hydroelectric power.

The standard version of the story is that Perky suffered from dyspepsia and sought an easier to digest substitute for bread. At a hotel in Nebraska he saw a man eating boiled wheat and then started looking for a way to make this more palatable while still healthy. This is the version in the Wikipedia and in this Dec. 1928 article from Time magazine. But a few weeks later, in Jan. 1929, they printed a letter from his son, Scott H. Perky, attempting to correct the record. The younger Perky claims that his father was not a “dyspeptic lawyer” and that a French doctor who had attended his mother was responsible for recommending boiled wheat. Of course Time stuck with “dyspeptic lawyer,” because it's just too good to let go. He also corrects the claim that biscuits were sold from baskets in Lincoln and Denver, though it is evidently true that samples were given out from covered wagons door-to-door, since one of those wagons is pictured in Out of the Cracker Barrel; The Nabisco Story, from Animal Crackers to Zuzus (p. 221). Scott Perky, who was an inventor in his own right (see below), also wrote a biography of Henry Perky, but it was apparently never published. The maintainer of the I Love Shredded Wheat site has an active request for any information on it. She lists a brand new biography, whose author had access to the manuscript.

Things get even muddier when Perky meets up with the Kelloggs, J. H. and his brother Will Keith Kellogg, who had joined him to run the Sanitarium. W. K.'s authorized biography is The Original has This Signature—W. K. Kellogg. Gerald Carson's Cornflake Crusade provides more alternatives. (I believe a pair of Carson's articles titled, “Early Days in the Breakfast Food Industry” that ran in Advertising and Selling for Sept. & Oct. 1945 were a major source for this time period in Cerealizing America.) I can only summarize without resolving the contradictions.

The process of making shredded wheat is fairly straightforward. Wheat kernels are cooked (boiled / steamed), allowed to sit for a while, and then pressed through a pair of small rollers to create strings of the cooked grain, which are then placed side-by-side to form sheets, which are folded into biscuits, which are then baked.

  • Perky and Ford may have already been designing a machine to press whole, uncooked grain before hitting on the idea of boiling it.
  • A lady from Denver may have shown shredded wheat to J. H. while at the San.
  • Shredded wheat may have given Kellogg the idea to make flaked food.
  • The boiling idea may have been borrowed in one direction or the other.
  • It may have been a surprise that the shreds came out more or less continuously and had to be cut.
  • The idea of cooking after the shreds were formed may have come from Kellogg's flakes.
  • W. K. may have offered Perky $100,000 for shredded wheat but stopped there when he held out for more.

In any case, by 1896, the Kelloggs were producing whole grain flakes known as Granose. Once corn was used exclusively as the grain, these became corn flakes.

C. W. Post visited the Battle Creek Sanitarium for his health. He worked with J. H. on some cereal products and failed to gain interest in his proposed improvements or tried to help selling and was rebuffed or just saw more opportunity on his own. Whichever way, in 1895 he began producing a grain drink similar to Somo called Postum and in 1897 a cereal similar to Granula / Granola, known as Grape-Nuts, so called because grape sugar was formed by the breakdown of the malted barley used in making it. (And not quite as the Wikipedia suggests because grape sugar was a direct ingredient.) In 1904 he introduced a flake cereal, similar to Granose, called Elijah's Manna, which was renamed to Post Toasties in 1908.

By the turn of the 20th century there were a variety of ready-to-eat cereal brands, most of which do not survive today. And there began to be reputable scientific interest in evaluating their nutritional value. Two lists from then specifically aimed to the economical aspects of the nutrients are here and here. Likewise, here are the result of microscopic analysis to determine whether processed grains really were superior in their digestibility.

Some particularly extravagant claims were made by Post for Grape-Nuts. These led Collier's magazine to refuse to accept their advertising, which in turn led Post to undertake a campaign against Collier. Collier then sued for libel and in 1910 a jury awarded him $50,000. Collier published articles giving his side of the story and republished them in book form, documenting in particular the evidence given at the trial as to whether or not Grape-Nuts prevented, or was safe for those with, appendicitis. The case was overturned on appeal and remanded to the lower court for a new trial, which never took place. IANAL and I don't feel like paying Loislaw to read the decision, but I believe the issue was the finer points of an individual suing for damage resulting from action taken against a corporation.

A much more significant precedent setting case was Kellogg v. National Biscuit, decided by the Supreme Court on 14 Nov 1938. Here is Time's report then and a brief report from Harvard Law Review. The Court decided that shredded wheat was a descriptive name that Shredded Wheat and then Nabisco had not given sufficient secondary meaning to associate with them exclusively as a trademark, and further that the pillow shape of the biscuit was inherent in the public's idea of shredded wheat and so could not be used exclusively without perpetuating a monopoly, outweighing a lower court opinion of 1918 in Shredded Wheat v. Humphrey Cornell, which had sought to avoid confusion to consumers when shredded wheat was served without any packaging. All of this was after the original shredded wheat patent had been declared invalid in 1908 because the design had been in use for more than two years prior to application (it would have expired in 1909 anyway) and others had expired in 1912, so only trademark law was limiting competition. Additional analysis from closer to the time of the opinion can be found in many law school journals in JSTOR: 1 2 3 4, and a recent summary of the lasting influence is here.

Yet another case with consequences was Shredded Wheat v. City of Elgin, where the company sought a declaratory judgment against a law that forbade distributing direct advertisements in the city. The court declined, rather uncreatively reasoning that if the law were constitutional, they would offer no help, and if it were not they did not need to. That is, they said the only way to challenge a law was to break it. This was cited in calls for uniform principles for such judgments.

Shredded Wheat were pioneers of modern marketing.

  • A selection of their magazine ads can be found in Google Books, though it seems to miss a couple of the more outrageous (and borderline offensive) ones I have in my small collection:
    • Shredded Wheat vs. Beef (scan), showing that the former is pound for pound 2½ times more nutritious than sirloin steak.
    • The Plucky Little Jap (scan), from 1906, right after the Russo-Japanese War, linking their military prowess to a cereal diet.
  • In keeping with their linking of diet and health, for a time their boxes said, “Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are,” translating Brillat-Savarin's aphorism «Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.», which is also the slogan of Iron Chef.
  • They published cookbooks with dietary advice where all the recipes (many of which are savory and not just for breakfast) called for their product:
    • The Vital Question Cook Book (online here).
    • The even stranger The Vital Question and Our Navy, 1898 (I have scanned it here), which is half the same cookbook and half photo inventory of American naval vessels from right after the sinking of the Maine, when Hearst was pushing for the Spanish-American War. The proposition is that war is caused by poor diet and nutrition: just look at all these floating machines of destruction that are therefore necessary.
    • The Happy Way to Health, which starts with a discussion of health and diet, then the specific benefits of shredded wheat, then “Unsolicited Letters of Gratitude and Appreciation”, and finishes up with a few recipes with color illustrations.
  • The company made their factory in Niagara Falls into a tourist attraction in its own right with guided tours, picture postcards, etc.

The long time Director of Publicity for the Natural Food Company and then for Nabisco was Truman A. DeWeese, whose 1906 The Principles of Practical Publicity (2nd edition online) covered the principles of modern advertising. He was one of the first to use the word copy in the sense of text for an ad there, just one year after the earliest citation in the OED, 1905's The Art of Modern Advertising by Earnest Elmo Calkins and Ralph Holden, who founded the first modern advertising agency on Jan. 1, 1902 with $2,000. Oddly enough, this article, which actually cites both books, gives priority to DeWeese.

According to Scott's biography (via Holechek), Perky became a vegetarian about the same time as he was setting up in Denver. By some accounts, the Cereal Restaurant, whose purpose was to promote shredded wheat and where all the dishes contained it, was vegetarian; other sources say that shredded meat in shredded wheat “cups” as one of the offerings. Perky did promote his product in the Chicago Vegetarian. But the recipes in the cookbooks are not limited: they include meat on shredded wheat. Still, his obituary does mention his vegetarian principles in the headline.

Shredded Wheat is a biscuit not only because of its shape, but also because it is in fact biscoctum 'twice cooked' (so also Italian biscotto). If one binds up the shreds somewhat tighter and cooks the result a third time, one gets the shredded wheat cracker, Triscuit. The analogy is Bread : Shredded Wheat : : Toast : Triscuit. And once Shredded Wheat was mainly for breakfast and not all meals, Triscuit was for lunch, as in this ad.

Scott H. Perky's take on shredded wheat wound them into a tight spiral (U.S. Patent 1,517,453). These were known as Muffets. They started out with the height about equal the diameter, but then got flatter. The rights were eventually sold to Quaker, who still sells them in Canada. This round shape is similar to Barbara's Shredded Wheat, which is the brand I usually have (making a collection of vintage rectangular shredded wheat bowls even sillier), although constant supply chain problems mean I sometimes settle for other brands. Barbara's shreds are somewhat thicker and the biscuit somewhat denser, though Post's larger biscuits end up weighing a little more.

I believe some shredded wheat-like products were made with a regular flour dough rather than boiled wheat, meaning that they were really just vermicelli.

A traditional food product that is even closer to shredded wheat is kadaif, sometimes known as “shredded phyllo.” It is made by pouring a thin batter of flour and water onto a large hot spinning round metal plate. I suppose that means that to a topologist a skein of kadaif is a stack of pancakes. Here are some pictures of products from a baking machine company, one of which (the pour device) is for making it. Even better, here is a video of some being made:

In Turkish, strictly speaking, kadayıf can be several kinds of pastry and telkadayıf 'wire kadaif' is the shredded wheat one. Likewise Persian رشته قطائف rišta qaṭāʾif 'wire velvet'. Arabic قطائف qaṭāʾif / قطايف qaṭāyif are different kinds of sweet dessert pancakes; the name is the plural of قطيفه qaṭīfah 'velvet', from the root قطف qṭf 'to pick (flowers or fruit)': here is the page in Lane's Lexicon and the footnote chain in his 1001 Nights to which he refers. The usual word for the shredded wheat pastry is كنافة kunāfah, root كنف knf 'to surround': here again is Lane's page and for completeness his 1001 Nights footnote. In Turkish künefe is a dish made by layering the pastry with cheese.

As I mentioned before, galaktoboureko (γαλακτομπούρεκο) is one of my wife's favorite desserts. We recently found a mix for it, though we haven't tried it yet. Since phyllo would not keep well in a box, it uses kataifi (καταΐφι) pastry. We haven't tried it yet, but since there is no baking, I imagine it will be more like crème anglaise on shredded wheat than the real thing. But I still couldn't resist getting it. This is the export packaging, with no Greek on it at all; the only two languages are English and Arabic: غالاكتوبوريكو does not get any search hits (yet). The same Balkan grocers that have it seem to have packages of kadaif from Bosnia.

Since no real text has been quoted yet in this post, a little searching finds a Turkish yemek destanı 'food epic' by a Şerife Hanım from Konya from 1896 with the following stanza:

kadı(y)fın telini kırmalı gü(n)lü
üzeri kokulu anberli gü(l)lü
pılavın üstüne getir sütlüyü
yiyelim bizler de can cemal olsun.

That is the text given here and here; a slightly different version is given here:

Kadayıfın teni kırmalı telli
Üzeri kokulu emberli güllü
Pilavın üstüne getir sütlüyü
Yiyelim bizlerde can cemal olsun

I assume the issue is modernizing the language. It should also be found on page 473 of this anthology, which I do not have access to. Snippets of it or a similar poem appear here and in an even more potentially interesting collection here, but again those books aren't available nearby. A not very literal rhyming translation is given here:

If you make kadayif, shred well the pastry,
Make sure that it's fluffy, do not break the strands.
Bake in an oven, then sprinkle with syrup.
Kadayif is known now in most other lands.

I do not feel qualified to give a more faithful translation; I only get the gist of it. I also imagine that the poem was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet and I would not mind seeing it that way, but I cannot bring myself to go as far as transliterating it back.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Garlic Origins

There were a couple of longer items left over from the garlic post. I am periodically reminded of this; most recently by a new frozen fusion item from the Super-88 Market, โรตีเมดิติวเรเซียน ตรา ฮิปโป roh-dtee may-dì-dtiw-ray-sian dtraa híp-bpoh 'Hippo Brand Mediteurasian Roti', รสเนยกระเทียม rót noie grà-tiam 'garlic-butter flavor'. A Mediterranean inspired Thai version of the Malaysian version of an Indian bread. It does manage the taste of garlic bread, but with a different texture, and is an excellent foundation for a salad wrap.

In any case, one concerns the origin of garlic and the other an origin from garlic and both go beyond just etymology. They each take a little bit to set up.

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In his A History of Persia, Percy Sykes writes,

There is little exaggeration in the statement that Alexander the Great as the most famous man ever born.

His real life accomplishments were remarkable, conquering most of the known world in his brief career. After his real life, as Hamlet says (Act V Scene 1),

Alexander died : Alexander was buried : Alexander returneth into duſt; the duſt is earth; of earth we make Lome; and why of that Lome (whereto he was conuerted) might they not ſtopp a Beere-barrell?

But then his literary presence takes over. As Arrian says in the prologue to his Anabasis,

ἄλλοι μὲν δὴ ἄλλα ὑπὲρ Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνέγραψαν, οὐδ' ἔστιν ὑπὲρ ὅτου πλείονες ἤ ἀξυμφωνότερποι ἐς ἀλλήλους· (ed. Abicht)

Different authors have given different accounts of Alexander's life; and there is no one about whom more have written, or more at variance with each other. (tr. Chinnock)

Alexander appears prosaically in 1 Maccabees 1, just to establish the time period. More interesting are the ten questions posed by Alexandrus Mokdon (אלכסנדרוס מוקדון 'Alexander of Macedon') to the Ziknei ha'Negev (זקני הנגב 'Elders of the South') in the Babylonian Talmud (Tamid 31-32). For instance, the third question:

אמר להן: אור נברא תחלה או חשך
אמרו לו: מילתא דא - אין לה פתר (here)

'amar lə-hen 'owr nibəra' təḥillah 'ow ḥošek
'amaru lu milṯa' da' 'ayin paṯar

He then asked, “Was light created first or was darkness?”
They replied, “This is an unanswerable question.” (tr. Harris)

(Naturally some debate follows on whether this is the right answer. I have not been able to find a scan of the traditional typography of this section. But some web pages try to approximate it a little more in Hebrew and English.)

Compare this with Plutarch's Life, Chapter LXIV, where Alexander quizzes the Indian Gymnosophists.

ὁ δὲ πέμπτος ἐρωτηθεὶς πότερον οἴεται τὴν ἡηέραν ἤ τὴν νύκτα προτέραν γεγεονέναι, “Τὴν ἡμέραν,” εῖπεν, “ἡμέρᾳ ηιᾷ·” καὶ προσεπεῖπεν οὗτος, θαυμάσαντος τοῦ βασιλέως, ὅτι τῶν ἀπόρων ἐρωτήσεων ἀνάγκη καὶ τὰς ἀποκρίσεις ἀπόρους εῖναι.

The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: “Day, by one day”; and he added, upon the king expressing amazement, that hard questions must have hard answers. (tr. Perrin, p. 406-407)

Alexander appears in the Quran, if we accept that Dulcarnain (ذو القرنين dhū al-qarnayn 'Two-horned one') in Sura XVIII (الكهف al-kahf 'The Cave') refers to him. Three prophetic passages in Daniel are also taken to refer to Alexander: 7:6, the leopard with four wings and four heads; 8:3 ff., the he-goat who attacks the ram with two horns (!), explained as the king of Greece (:21) and of Media and Persia (:20), respectively; and 11:1 ff., again the Greek king who defeats Darius the Mede. (For the Christian exegesis, see Jerome. Or Isaac Newton, who isn't so much remembered for that sort of thing these days.) All of which shows not just his historical character, but also that these texts arose in the Hellenistic world.

The more fanciful tales of Alexander are known as the Alexander Romance, descendant from a work whose author is known as Pseudo-Callisthenes (since the real Callisthenes predeceased Alexander). These spread throughout the Middle Ages and versions are known in many languages, including Latin, Armenian, and Serbian (from which Georgian and some of the Russian translations were made). In France, Walter of Châtillon wrote a very popular Latin Alexandreis, which was translated into Spanish and Icelandic. A French version gave rise to a Scots one. Plus, of course, Old and Middle English versions (see here).

A is for Alexander in the abcedarian poem “Alexander puer magnus” in a 9th or 10th century manuscript in Verona. The 12th century Old French poem Li Romans d'Alexandre gave rise to the term alexandrine for its twelve-syllable meter.

As Chaucer's Monk says:

The ſtorie of Aliſaundre is ſo comune
That every wight that hath diſcrecioun
Hath herd ſomwhat or al of his fortune

Nor does this stop in modern times. There was an Oliver Stone movie. The magic formula,

ποῦ εῖναι ὁ Μεγαλέξανδρος;
ὁ Μεγαλέξανδρος ζεῖ καὶ βασιλεύε

Where is Alexander the Great?
Alexander the Great lives and rules

used by sailors to protect against rough seas, with a folktale about Alexander's sister who turned into a mermaid, shows up on Greek-American web sites. But this takes a nasty turn when mixed with extreme nationalism. For instance, a directory of Greek bankers in Chicago is really all about the Macedonian question: whether the Republic of Macedonia, the part of the former Yugoslavia with its capital at Skopje, should be allowed to use that name. (All sides claim the Vergina Sun as their heritage, making its image a good indication of trouble.) During the Cold War, there was additional anti-Communist coloring to the ethnic tensions. It starts by taking extreme positions on historical matters that have gray areas or definitional ambiguities, like “Was Ancient Macedonia part of Greece?”, “Did the Macedonians speak Greek?”, or “When have there been significant non-Greek speaking populations in Greece?”, and goes downhill from there. No good can come of discussing it here. More (only somewhat out of date) is on one of Tim Spalding's pre-LibraryThing sites. Right now the Wikipedia is pretty balanced, but that can change at any instant.

Naturally, each of the Medieval Alexanders is more or less adapted to the culture into which it is imported. The Ethiopic version has Alexander as a Christian saint and his father as a martyr. Likewise the Coptic; in fact, although the Coptic Alexander Romance is as close to secular literature as Coptic gets (other than some monastic first-aid manuals), the Coptic Encyclopedia does not mince words:

The style of these Coptic versions of the Alexander Romance duplicates the literature of edification written by the monks. The narratives extend the stories of the martyrs and also of the apocalypses. Those who treat some Coptic literature as being “profane” err; Coptic literature is Christian. As a tool of God, Alexander could be considered a prophet; as a martyr, he foreshadowed Christ. (s.v. Romances)

Starting with Alexander, from Ptolemy to Cleopatra, Egypt was ruled by Macedonians. Champollion famously recognized their names written in hieroglyphs, based on their shared sounds in Greek; Alexander is A-l:k-s-i-n:d-rA:z a-l-k-s-i-n-d-r-s. The surviving version of Pseudo-Callisthenes evidently comes from Egypt. To legitimize this rule, it makes Alexander the half-Egyptian son of Nectanebo. This is Nectanebo II, the last native pharaoh, nḫt ḥr ḥbt 'strong is Horus of Hebyt' — modern Behbeit el-Hagar بهبيت الحجارة. The cartouche in the Wikipedia is the fuller B1-U7:D40-G5-W4-X1:O49 nḫt ḥr ḥbt mri ḥtḥr, adding 'beloved of Hathor'; other gods are presumably possible. The French, German, Italian and Polish Wikipedias agree on this translation, while the English and Spanish ones have something more similar to Nectanebo I nḫt nbf  'strong is his lord'. The work cited actually says, “Strong is his lord Horus,” which at least accounts for the ḥr. But on the very next page it says, “Strong is Horus of Behbeit,” in the course of explaining the visual rebus / pub of the famous statue in the Met where a little Nectanebo under a big Horus holds a harpesh [= strong] and a small shrine [= Behbeit]. Anyway, in Pseudo-Callisthenes, Nectanebo is also a magician, travels to Macedonia and seduces Philip's wife Olympias by disguising himself as the god Ammon, fitting a description that he magically sent to her in a dream.

Ὁ δὲ Νεκτανεβὼς ἀποθέμενος τὸ σκῆπτρον ἀναβαίνει ἐπὶ τὴν κλίνην αὐτῆς καὶ συγγίνεται αὐτῇ, καί φησι πρὸς αὐτήν· “Διάμεινον γύναι, κατὰ γαστρὸς ἔχεις ἄρῥενα παϊδα ἔκδικόν σου γινόμενον καὶ πάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης κοσμοκράτορα βασιλέα.” Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἀπὸ τοῦ κοιτῶνος ὁ Νεκτανεβὼς, ἄρας τὸ σκῆπτρον, καὶ ἀπέκρυψεν πάντα ἅ εῖχε πλανικά. (Bk. 1, 7)

Nectanebo, putting aside his scepter, climbed on to the bed and made love to her. Then he said, ‘Be calm, woman, in your womb you carry a male child who will avenge you and will become king and ruler of all the world.’ Then he left the room, taking his scepter with him, and hid all the pieces of his disguise. (tr. Stoneman)

Later on, he used another ruse to carefully orchestrate the time of birth.

Πρωΐας δὲ γενομένης, ἰδὼν Φίλιππος τὸ τεχθὲν παιδίον ὑπὸ Ὀλυμπιάδος ἔφη· “Ηβουλόμην μὲν αὐτὸ μὴ ἀναθρέψαι διὰ τὸ γέννημα ἐμὸν μὴ εῖναι· ἀλλ' ἐπειδὴ ὁρω τὴν μὲν σπορὰν οὖσαν θεοῦ, τὸν δὲ τοκετὸν ἐπισημον καὶ κοσμικὸν, τρεφέσθω εῖς μνήμην τοῦ τελευτήσακτός μου ταιδὸς γεννηθέντος ἐκ τῆς προτέρας μου γυναικός· καλείσθω δὲ Ἀλέξανδρος.” (Bk. 1, 13)

Next morning, when Philip saw Olympias' new-born child, he said: ‘I wished him not to be raised because he was not my own offspring, but now that I see that he is the seed of a god and the birth has been signalled by the heavens, let him be raised in memory of my son by my previous wife, who died, and let him be called Alexander.’ (tr. Stoneman)

The name Alexander is Greek, meaning 'defender of man'. The feminine form is found in Linear B 𐀀𐀩𐀏𐀭𐀅𐀨 a-re-ka-sa-da-ra (MY V 659 line 2; see illustration on pg. 64 of this article).

Much of Alexander's rapid conquest was accomplished by taking over the old Achaemenid empire. His long term ruling plan was evidently a combination of hereditary Macedonian warriors and hereditary Persian administrators. Arrian, citing Aristobulus, says (vi, 29) that Alexander had Cyrus' tomb at Pasargadae restored. (Even though it names Arrian as the source, the description given by the Wikipedia matches Strabo xv, 7, specifically what Aristobulus saw the first time, on the way to India. On the way back, they found it looted. The Wikipedia doesn't mention this or the ordered restoration. The second variation of the inscription, given with an incomplete secondary reference, is from Plutarch lxix, who also mentions that the Macedonian perpetrator, one Polymachus, was put to death and that Alexander had a Greek translation added below the Persian. Looks like these couple paragraphs citing Greek historians on Cyrus' tomb need some cleanup. When I get a chance. One of the more interesting spam we received last month was about Cyrus the Great Day, روز کورش بزرگ roz kūrash buzurg, October 29, and a modern appeal to restore the tomb.) Pahlavi sources naturally condemned Alexander as gizistag 'accursed'. But the later romance tradition sought to adopt Alexander as their own. Sikandar (سکندر Alexander, also Iskandar اسکندر) is the son of the Persian king Dārāb (داراب Darius) and the daughter of Failaqūs (فیلقوس Philip). He was born in his maternal grandfather's court because his mother had bad breath and was sent back, but not before she became pregnant; Philip pretends that the child is his own. The bad breath was actually cured, but the Persian king had already lost interest. In one version, she is cured by using sandarac (سندروس sandaros, the ξύλον θύϊνον 'thyine wood' of Rev. 18:12); the queen being conveniently named Halāi, the child is named Halāi-Sandaros, making his name Persian too.

We now come to the version of the story in Ferdowsi (فردوسی)'s Shahnameh (شاهنامه), which is the actual point of this post. Here the mother's name is Nāhīd (ناهید, the planet Venus and a Zoroastrian goddess whose temple was at Pasargadae).

پزشکان داننده را خواندند
به نزدیک ناهید بنشاندند

یکی مرد بینادل و نیک​رای
پژوهید تا دارو آمد به جای

گیاهی که سوزنده​ی کام بود
به روم اندر اسکندرش نام بود

بمالید بر کام او بر پزشک
ببارید چندی ز مژگان سرشک

بشد ناخوشی بوی و کامش بسوخت
به کردار دیبا رخش برفروخت

اگر چند مشکین شد آن خوب​چهر
دژم شد دلارای را جای مهر

دل پادشا سرد گشت از عروس
فرستاد بازش بر فیلقوس

غمی دختر و کودک اندر نهان
نگفت آن سخن با کسی در جهان

چو نه ماه بگذشت بر خوب​چهر
یکی کودک آمد چو تابنده مهر

ز بالا و اروند و بویا برش
سکندر همی خواندی مادرش

بفرخ همی داشت آن نام را
کزو یافت از ناخوشی کام را (32.4)

pazaškān dāninde rā xwāndand
be nazdīkān nāhīd binšāndand

yake mard bīnādil u neko-rāy
pižūhīda tā dārū āmad be jāy

gīyāhe ke sozandahe kām būd
be rūm andar iskandaruš nām būd

bamālīda bar kām o bar pizišk
babārīd čande ze mužagān sirišk

bašidda banāxwuš boy u kamaš basoxt
be kirdār dībā raxš barfuroxt

agar čand muškīn šadd ān xūb-čihr
dižam šadd dilārāy rā jāy mihr

dil pādšā sard gašt az ʻarūs
firistād bāzaš bar failaqūs

qamī duxtar u kūdak andar nihān
neguft ān suxun bā kasī dar jahān

čū be māh baguẕašt bar xūb-čihr
yake kūdak āmad čū tābandah mihr

ze bālā u ārwand u boyā baraš
sikandar hamī xwānde mādaraš

bafarrux hamī dāšt ān nām rā
kazo yāft az banāxwuš kām rā

They summoned skilful leeches to Náhíd,
And one of them, a shrewd and prudent man,
Examined till he found a remedy
A herb whereby the gullet is inflamed,
Called in the Rúman tongue “iskandar.” This
He rubbed upon the palate of the queen,
And caused her eyes to water lustily.
The fetor fled away, her palate burned,
Her face shone like brocade; but though the Fair
Was sweet as musk Dáráb had ceased to love her,
The monarch's heart turned coldly from his bride,
And so he sent her back to Failakús.
She was with child but told not any one.
Nine months passed and from that fair dame was born
A babe like radiant Sol. She used to call him
Sikandar since he was so tall, well favoured,
And sweet of breath, for she esteemed the name
Of what had sweetened her own palate lucky, (tr. Warner & Warner)

So, Iskandar was named after اسكندروس iskandarūs 'garlic'. This is not a native Persian word (as the text admits). It has been proposed that this word comes from or Greek σκόροδον or Latin ascalonium 'shallot', though neither seems entirely satisfactory. It also seems possible that some plant variety was actually named after the person.

Alexander's eastward conquests ended when his men refused to cross the Hyphasis River. (Ὑφασις < विपाशा vipāśā 'unfettered', supposedly because it destroyed the cords that the sage Vasishṭha वसिष्ठ had tied around himself, intending to drown / hang himself from grief when his sons were killed by Viśvāmitra विश्वामित्र. In a chapter titled The Mighty Rivers of India, Karttunen observes that vi- > hy- indicates a Persian intermediary, like with Hystaspes or Hydarnes. The Wikipedia also offers a folk-etymology of the modern name.) There is no trace of him reaching as far as he did in Indian literature or tradition. But the satrapies along the way and westward expansion by Indian kingdoms meant that more or less regular commerce was established. The edicts of Aśoka, the oldest surviving Indian documents (aside from the mysterious Indus valley inscriptions) mention the Yonas (that is, Ionians: Sanskrit यवन yavana — a word applied to successively larger groups: Greeks, then Europeans, then foreigners in general) and a king Alikasudaro (probably Alexander II of Epirus; line 9 of rock edict #13 here). He even issued an edict in Greek and Aramaic. The adjacent Greco-Buddhist kingdoms applied Hellenistic aesthetics to an emergent iconography of the Buddha and Buddhist saints, in particular in Gandhāra (we have a Gandhāran boddhisattva in our dining room).

Alexander the Great appears on the bad-guy short list of a certain kind of fanatical Hindu nationalist. (Again see the Alexander on the Web site for examples.) The enemy is the Aryan invasion theory (it may very well be that all uses of the word Aryan are now indications of some kind of fringe), an imagined mix of prehistoric migrations, historical conquests, and language interactions, against which Sanskrit must clearly be more closely related to Dravidian languages like Tamil (and indeed long contact has led to much borrowing in both directions) since a contrary claim implies ravaging hordes of Europeans. Once language and religion get mixed in, other villains are William Jones for claiming that Sanskrit comes from Greek and Latin, though pretty much all he said on the subject is the one sentence quoted in Wikipedia and even that supposes a common source; and Max Müller for promoting Christianity, though he edited The Sacred Books of the East. These men can well be challenged as ruthless conquerors, imperialists and racists, but that is not grounds for repudiating reputable history or sound science. More recently, a book by Paul Courtright has become the center of controversy, not for applying the psychological principles of contemporary religious studies, but for fabricating blasphemous quotes from Hindu scripture or at least promoting deliberately bad translations, though his works seems to have the usual citation apparatus. Here in the States, the battleground is correcting high school textbooks, going beyond the critically important goal of removing imperialist assumptions and negative ethnic and religious stereotypes to, taking a cue from Creationists and extreme “Ancient Egypt was African” proponents, adding claims that are not generally accepted by mainstream experts. Though it is not impossible, I do not imagine that the accepted theory of the major language families is likely to change significantly. But there are some other generally interesting questions involved, like “Is Hinduism more polytheistic than Roman Catholicism?” However since discussions get so polarized so fast, it's best to once again mostly avoid them here.

Aśoka was also one of the most powerful vegetarian proselytizers ever. For instance, here is part of his Rock Edict #1. Since Brāhmi is not supported in Unicode yet, here is a picture (from here; the same image is also here).

Girnir 1

Which reads:

                                        pu rā ma hā na se ja mā
de vā naṃ pi ya sa pi ya da si no ra ño a nu di va saṃ ba
hū ni pā ṇa sa ta sa ha sā ni ā ra bhi su sū pā thā ya
sa a ja ya dā a yaṃ dhaṃ ma li pi li khi tā tī e va pā
ṇa ā ra bhi re sū pā thā ya dva me ra e ko ma go so pi
ma go na dhū vo e te pā tī pā ṇā pa chā na ā ra bhi saṃ re

Which gets cleaned up a little here to:

pura mahânasaphi Devânampiyasa Piyadasino Ranyo anudivasam bahûni pâna satasahasâni ârabhisu sûpâthâya sa aja yadâ ayam dhammalipi likhitâtî eva pâṇa ârabhire supâthâya dwamera eko mago so pi mago na dhuvo ete pâti pânâ pacchâ na ârabhisante.

(A slightly different version of the text of the same edict from elsewhere is here.) The translation is something like:

Formerly, in the kitchen of King Devanampriya Priyadarsi ('Beloved-of-the-Gods of-Loving-Regard'), every day hundreds of thousands of animals were killed to make curry. But now with the writing of this Dharma edict only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer, are killed to make curry, and the deer not always. And in the future, not even these three creatures will be killed.

The word sūpā-, translated 'curry', is cognate with English soup and also means that.

In March, 1890, Lieutenant (later Major-General Sir) Hamilton Bower of the Indian Army was in Chinese Turkestan on the trail of a murderer named Dad Mahomed. (Bower's “A Trip to Turkistan” from The Geographical Journal can be found in JSTOR or Google Books, or in abbreviated form here. A Confidential Report of a Journey in Chinese Turkistan 1889-90 is mentioned by a number of bibliographies, but evidently harder to find. Bower is more famous as an explorer of Tibet.) In Kumtura, near Kuchar, he was sold a book of fifty-one birch-bark leaves in wooden boards, which came to be known as the Bower Manuscript. He sent it along to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. You can see its initial notice and some images (which didn't scan very well) in their Proceedings here. Here it passed to A. F. Rudolf Hoernle, who recognized the script as one used in Northwestern India (now known as Gupta or Late Brāhmi) and the language as Sanskrit. You can read his initial remarks a few months later here and some more in a later address as President of the Society here. (Some vandal has changed the Wikipedia to claim that the manuscript is in Tamil, either through zealous nationalism or more likely just to cause trouble. I'll probably undo that soon.)

Hoernle published some additional remarks and a first installment of a translation as monographs for the Journal of the Society. Since it does not appear to be online, I have scanned the latter (my copy is very brittle) and since there is no valid copyright, I put it here for downloading. He followed this up with a series of translations with notes, transcriptions, transliterations and facsimiles, the three-volume work completing in 1913. This definitive edition has been reprinted in India several times relatively recently, but I have had no luck getting hold of a copy (a couple of shipments went missing, though I normally have no such trouble). The transliteration is in GRETIL. Two of the volumes are in the Digital Library of India (which does not seem to get very high page ranks in searches), but the scan appears to be defective, lacking much of the transliteration. But it does give his final translation.

The manuscript is one of the oldest surviving Indian books, preserved in the desert where there is no monsoon. It was found in a stūpa associated with a vihāra and the original monk owner appears to have been named Yaśomitra. Hoernle dated it 350-500 CE, with modern scholars tending toward the later end. The manuscript contains seven documents: three on Ayurvedic medicine, two on fortune telling with dice, and two with chants against snake-bite. The non-medical ones have significantly more Prākritisms. The first medical one is on the uses of garlic and, before getting into treatments, starts with a more or less self-contained poem on the origins of garlic (and its folk etymology), which is the second point of this post.

दृष्ट्वा पत्रैर्हरितहरितैरिन्द्रनीलप्रकाशैः कन्दैः कुन्दस्फटिककुमुदेन्द्वङशुशंखाभ्रशुभ्रैः [।] उत्पन्नास्थो मुनिमुपगतः सुश्रुतः काशिराजं किन्न्वेतत्स्यादथ स भगवानाह तस्मै यथावत् ॥
पुरामृतं प्रमथितमसुरेन्द्रः स्वयं पपौ [।] तस्य चिच्छेद भगवानुत्तमांगं जनार्द्दनः ॥
कण्ठनाडी समासन्ना विच्छिन्ने तस्य मूर्धनि [।] विन्दवः पतिता भूमावाद्यं तस्येह जन्म तु ॥
न भक्षयंत्येनमतश्च विप्राः शरीरसंपर्क्कविनिःसृतत्वात् [।] गन्धोग्रतामप्यत एव चास्य वदंति शास्त्राधिगमप्रवीणाः ॥
लवणरस[वियोगा]दाहुरेन रशूनम् लशुन इति तु संज्ञा चास्य लोकप्रतीता [।] बहुभिरिह किमुक्तैर्द्देशभाषाभिधानैः शृणु रसगुणवीर्याण्यस्य चैवोपयोगात् ॥
रसे च पाके च कटुः प्रदिष्टः पाके तथा स्वादुरुदाहृतो न्यः [।] लघुश्च गन्धेन सदुर्ज्जराश्रवीर्येण चोष्णः प्रथितश्च वृष्यः ॥
आंब्लोष्णस्नेहभावात्पवनबलहरः प्रोक्तो मुनिवृषैः माधुर्यात्पित्तभावादपि च स रसतया पित्तप्रशमनः [।] औष्ण्यात्तैक्ष्ण्यात्कटुत्वात्कफबलविजयी विद्वद्भिरुदितः सर्वान्रोगान्निहन्यादिति विधिविहितो दोषत्रयहरः ॥
पवनं विनिहंत्यपि चास्थिगतं कफमप्यचिरादुदितं शमयेत् [।] जनयेदपि चाग्निबलं प्रबलं बलवर्ण्णकरः प्रवरश्च मतः ॥
अथ बहुविधमद्यमांससर्पिर्यवगोधूमभुजां सुखात्मकानाम् [।] अयमिह लशुनोत्सवः प्रयोज्यो हिमकाले च मधौ च माधवे च ॥
त्यज्यंते कामिनीभिर्जयनसमुचिता यत्र काञ्चीकलापाः हाराः शैत्यान्न वक्षस्तनतटयुगलापीडनात्संप्रयांति [।] कांता नेन्द्वन्शुजालव्यतिकरसुभगाहर्म्यपृष्ठोपभोगाः काले तस्मिन्प्रयोज्यो ह्यगुरु बहुमतं कुंकुमांकाश्च यत्र ॥
हर्म्याग्रेष्वथ तोरणेषु वलभीद्वारेषु चाविष्कृताः कन्दाढ्या लशुनस्रजो विरचयेद्भूमौ [त]थैवार्च्चनम् [।] मालास्तत्परिचारकस्य च जनस्यारोपयेत्तन्मयीरित्यस्यैष विधिर्ज्जनस्य विहितः स्वल्पोवमानामतः ॥

Dṛishṭvâ patrair=harita-haritair=indranîla-prakâśaiḥ kandaiḥ kunda-sphaṭika-ku-mud-êndvaṅśu-śaṃkh-âbhra-śubhraiḥ [|] utpann-âsthô m[u]nim=upagataḥ Suśrutaḥ Kâśirájaṃ kinnv=êtat-syâd=atha sa bhagavân=âha tasmai yathâvat || [9||]
Pur=âmṛitaṃ pramathitam=asur-êndraḥ svayaṃ papau [|] tasya chichchhêda bhagavân=u-ttamâṃgaṃ Janârddanaḥ || [10||]
Kaṇṭha-nâḍî samâsannâ vichchhinnê tasya mûrdhani [|] vindavaḥ patitâ bhûmâv=âdyaṃ tasy=êha janma tu || [11||]
Na bhakshaya[ṃ]ty=ênam=ataś=cha viprâḥ śarîra-saṃparkka-viniḥ-sṛitatvât [|] gandh-ôgratâm=apy=ata êva ch=âsya vadaṃti śâstr-âdhigama-pravîṇâḥ || [12||]
Lavaṇa-rasa-viyôgâd=âhur=ênaṃ raśû-na(m) laśuna iti tu saṃjñâ ch=âsya lôka-pratîtâ [|] bahubhir=iha kim=uktair=d=dêśa-bhâsh-âbhidhânaiḥ śṛiṇu rasa-guṇa-vîryâṇy=asya ch=aiv=ôpayôgât || [13||]
Rasê cha pâkê cha kaṭuḥ pra-dishṭaḥ pâkê tathâ svâdur=udâhṛitô nyaḥ [|] laghuś=cha gandhêna sa-durjjar-âśra-vîryêṇa ch=ôshṇaḥ prathitaś=cha vṛishyaḥ || [14||]
Âṃbl-ôshṇa-snêha-bhâvât=pavana-bala-haraḥ prôktô muni-vṛishaiḥ mâdhuryât=pitta-bhâvâd=api cha sa rasatayâ pitta-praśamanaḥ [|] aushṇyât=taikshṇyât=kaṭutvât=kapha-bala-vijayî vidvadbhir=uditaḥ sarvân=rôgân=nihanyâd=iti vidhi-vihitô dôsha-traya-haraḥ || [15||]
Pavanaṃ vinihaṃty=api ch=âsthi-gataṃ kapham=apy=achirâd=uditaṃ śamayêt [|] janayêd=api ch=âgni-balaṃ prabalaṃ bala-varṇṇa-karaḥ prava-raś=cha mataḥ || [16||]
Atha bahu-vidha-madya-mâṃsa-sarpir-yava-gôdhûma-bhujâṃ sukh-âtmakânâm [|] ayam=iha laśun-ôtsavaḥ prayôjyô hima-kâlê cha madhau cha mâdha-vê cha || [17||]
Tyajyaṃtê kâminîbhir=jayana-samuchitâ yatra kâñchî-kalâpâḥ hârâḥ śaityân=na vakshas-tana-taṭa-yugal-âpîḍanât=saṃprayâṃti [|] kâṃtâ n=êndv-anśu-jâla-vyatikara-subhagâ-harmya-pṛishṭh-ôpabhôgâḥ kâlê tasmin=prayôjyô hy=aguru bahu-mataṃ kuṃkum-âṃkâś=cha yatra || [18||]
Harmy-âgrêshv=atha tôra-ṇêshu valabhî-dvârêshu ch=âvishkṛitâḥ kand-âḍhyâ laśuna-srajô virachayêd=bhûmau tath=aiv=ârchchanam [|] mâlâs=tat-parichârakasya cha janasy=ârô-payêt=tan-mayîr=ity=asy=aisha vidhir=j=janasya vihitaḥ svalpô-vamânâm=ataḥ || [19||]

(Verse 9.) Having observed a plant with leaves dark-blue like sapphire, and with bulbs white like jasmine, crystal, the white lotus, moon-rays, conch-shell or mica, and having his attention aroused thereby, Suśruta approached the Muni King of Kâśi (i.e., Benares) with the enquiry, what it could be. Then that holy man replied to him as follows:
(Verse 10 and 11.) Of yore the lord of the Asuras himself drank the forth-churned nectar; his head the holy Janârdana (i.e., Vishṇu) cut off. (11.) The windpipe remained attached to the severed head; from it drops fell on the ground, and those were its (i.e., garlic's) first origin.
(Verse 12.) Hence Brâhmans do not eat it, because of its having originated from something connected with a (living) body; its evil smell also the learned in sacred lore declare to be due to the same cause.
(Verse 13.) Because of the absence of salty taste they call it ‘Raśûna’ and its designation of ‘Laśuna’ is well-known among the people. What need to mention the many names by which it is called in the languages of different countries? Hear only its tastes, properties, and powers on account of their importance for its medicinal use.
(Verse 14.) In tasting as well as in digesting it is declared to be pungent; but in digesting it is also said to be sweet; it is of light, and, as shown by its smell, difficult to digest; with regard to its power, it is hot, and it is famed as an aphrodisiac.
(Verse 15.) By the foremost Munis it has been declared to be, on account of its sour, hot and oily nature, a means of reducing the strength of the air-humour, and, on account of its sweet and bitter nature, as shown by its taste, also to be a means of abating the bile-humour. On account of its hot, sharp, and pungent nature it is said by the learned to be a subduer of the strength of the phlegm-humour. It was thus appointed by the Creator a means of removing the defects of these three humours, in order that it should cure all diseases.
(Verse 16.) It kills also the air-humour when it has got into the bones, and rectifies also the phlegm-humour when it (i.e., its disorder) is not of any long standing; it also greatly stimulates the digestive power, and may be considered an excellent means for restoring vital power and colour.
(Verse 17.) Now by those who want to enjoy in comfort many sorts of liquor, flesh, clarified butter, barley and wheat, the festival of the garlic, here described, is to be observed, in the winter season as well as in the months of Madhu and Mâdhava.
(Verse 18.) When trimmed girdles fit for the conquest of men, are given up by the women, and necklaces are not worn by (lit., do not approach) their bosoms, on account of their distressing cold, and when enjoyments on the roofs of one's mansions, otherwise so pleasant from the contact with the multitude of the rays of the moon, are not coveted, at that time it should be observed, also when Aguru (fragrant aloe) is much esteemed and the bodies are daubed with Kumkuma (saffron).
(Verse 19.) Then in the fronts of the houses, on their gateways, and on the doors of the pavilions, erected over them, garlands of garlic richly set with its bulbs should be displayed, and on the ground itself one should have worship performed. One should also cause the people of one's household to wear chaplets made of the same (garlic). This is the manner for observing the festival, appointed for the people, and known by the name of Svalpôvamâ.

(Another translation can be found here and a Dutch one here.)

There is one discrepancy between the Nagari transcription and the transliteration in the earlier publication. In verse 18, 'saffron' (Classical Sanskrit कुङ्कुम kuṅkuma) is given as kuṃkum but कुकुंम was printed, which would be the impossible kukuṃm; so I've assumed कुंकुम (like it's spelled in Marathi). There are more differences between the transliteration and the one in GRETIL than are accounted for just by the different schemes used. For instance, in the GRETIL text, 'moon-rays' is written endvaṃśu in verse 9 but endvaṅśu in verse 18; of course, it's possible that the manuscript really is inconsistent in when nasals are written with anusvara. More clearly a typo in transcribing online is nimakāle for himakāle '[in the] winter time'. Beside these and other single letter differences, the online version adds khalu after atha at the start of verse 17; since अथ and अथ खलु are so close as a way of keeping a narrative going, the translation is no real guide, though I suspect that this is a real emendation. Anyway, because of all these, I've decided against just copying the online transliteration and gone with the one I can proofread. When I manage to track down a copy of the later work, or it shows up digitized online, I can update it.

The folk etymology then for लशुन laśuna is रसुन rasuna from [लवण lavaṇa 'salty'] रस rasa 'taste' ऊन ūna '-less'. As for mainstream derivations, since there is no Indo-European analogue, in this paper, Thomas Burrow proposes a Dravidian source, noting Kui lesuṛi and Malto nasnu. Words derived from the Sanskrit and words of the 'white onion' sort in the major Dravidian languages were listed in the earlier garlic post. Further out on the limb, Tóth's Etymological dictionary of Hungarian, which aims to prove that it descends from Sumerian, relates Hungarian csomó 'knot', Sumerian šum (also mentioned in the earlier post) and lasuna.

In one of those odd coincidences that ultimately don't mean anything, Hoernle died November 11, 1918, the day of the signing of Armistice ending World War I. Of course, this was only a pause in the succession of troubles caused by nationalist interests playing out on the trans-national stage, among other things. It is commemorated this weekend as Veterans Day.

It was the discovery of the Bower Manuscript that led the Indian Government and the British Museum to launch Sir Aurel Stein's Silk Road expedition, which would discover the Dunhuang caves, plus loads more manuscripts, including ones in Tocharian and Khotanese, on Alexander's track. Other countries undertook similar efforts, of course: see outline here or the popular account in Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. As the Wikipedia points out, Hoernle's reputation suffered as a result of his being taken in by some forgeries, but it recovered in part due to work on these new discoveries; see summary here.

Lately I've thought that someone should write a book of such literary causes and effects. I do not mean the obvious ones, such as Stein being inspired by Through Asia, as mentioned by the Wikipedia. Rather ones where the origin is significantly more obscure or unexpected, like the surprise of the Bower manuscript. Some more examples:

  • When Benjamin Franklin was sixteen, he read a book by Thomas Tryon and became a vegetarian. Everyone still reads Franklin's Autobiography, but Tryon only shows up in histories of vegetarianism and the occasional blog post.
  • It was reading Percival Lowell's Soul of the Far East that persuaded Lafcadio Hearn to go to Japan. He considered it the best book in English on Japanese life, though he disagreed some with it and even more with Occult Japan. Today Lowell is remembered as an astronomer and Hearn as the essential interpreter of Japan.
  • Thomas Merton read James Joyce's Ulysses and was one of the earlier writers on Finnegans Wake. But he always bogged down on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where Joyce's conflicts with Catholicism are laid out straightforwardly. When he finally did succeed, he converted and became a monk and one of the most influential modern Catholic authors.