To bean or not to bean!

The black beans in my pantry with the pressure canner, their eventual fate, looming above them.

Please excuse me, low-hanging puns are a weakness of mine.

While I wait for the bean book to get to my local library, let’s talk about the origin of beans. Or, rather, of ‘bean’. The word itself.

It turns out that the etymology (not entomology, which is the study of bugs, like my brain insists is correct here) of the word bean is pretty uninteresting. I’m sorry. But we can still give it a look!

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, a very neat resource that I hope to get to use a lot in the future, the English word ‘bean’ comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘bauno’, which is also the source of the words for ‘bean’ in Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German, and German. If you’re curious, those words are ‘baun’, ‘bone’, ‘boon’, ‘bona’, and ‘bohne’, respectively.

The only thing I found super interesting was the fact that the word ‘bean’ is apparently related to the Latin word ‘faba’. This is interesting because the very first strain of bean that was cultivated by humans was the fava bean, according to Wikipedia (I promise I will get better at finding good sources!). We’ll talk more about fava beans when I cover my boy Pythagoras and his prohibition against eating beans.

Another interesting to note, again from Wikipedia (my high school history teacher would be so disappointed in me) is that, originally, the word for ‘bean’ was not used only for what we think of as beans today. Rather, it was used to describe the pod-borne seed of any plant.

Well, that’s today’s bite of food (word) history! See you next time, and don’t forget to Eat Your History!


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