Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Sun Jun 8 15:11:58 UTC 2003

An item in the "Guardian" on 29 May read as follows: "The Royal
Society of Chemistry is looking for a couple getting married who will
agree to drink a cup of milheglin, or mead, every day for a month.
The society has found an ancient recipe for the honey drink, and
wants to see if it really does increase passion during the 'honey
month' or honeymoon". (The press release that provoked this item is
at <>.)

This suggests that the  RSC is trying to invent a new academic field:
experimental popular etymology.

What intrigues particularly about the piece is that word "milheglin".
It's in no dictionary I've consulted and the only source I've found
for it is Lillian Eichler's "The Customs of Mankind" (1924). She
wrote, "Among northern nations of Europe, in ancient times, it was
the custom for newly married couples to drink milheglin or mead (a
kind of wine made from honey) for a period of about thirty days after
marriage. Antiquarians say that from this custom grew the term 'honey
month' or 'honeymoon'."

Where might she have got this word from? It looks unEnglish, though
it seems closely related to "metheglin", a word from Welsh for a
closely related drink. Might she have misread her notes and thereby
introduced a new word into the language?

Does anybody know?

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at>
Web: <>

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