August 26, 2013

Case File #013.08.26: LETTUCE

Not many people would think of lettuce and milk as culinary partners, yet it turns out there is a palatable affinity between the two. Well, etymologically speaking, that is. First appearing in the English lexicon circa 1300, lettuce was derived from the Old French plural laituës, meaning “lettuces,” the singular of which evolved from lactuca, the Latin word for lettuce. But lactuca was itself derived from the Latin adjective lacteus, meaning “of milk” or “abounding in milk,” most likely as an allusion to the milky juices of certain varieties of lettuce and other edible greens. The Americanism in which lettuce refers to paper money, however, makes no such insinuations about the plant's milkiness or the word's milky past. First recorded around 1930, the term actually alludes to the lettuce-like green color of US currency, but given the twenty-first century's move towards a cashless world economy, the Yankee jargon is now considered passé.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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