black-eyed peas and cashew

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 1 19:36:07 UTC 2011

black-eyed peas under black-eyed adj. 1.b.  a1744 (1901) --> [1749] -->
1683 (1757)
cashew (cashou) 1703 --> 1683 (1757) --> [1678??] --> 1653 (1921)

There is an entry for black-eyed peas under black-eyed adj. Curiously,
however, it claims it to be a species of peas--they are actually beans
(see Wiki, "The currently accepted botanical name is Vigna unguiculata
subsp. unguiculata, although previously it was classified in the genus
Phaseolus."). AFAICT all citations are US and mostly Southern (including
George Washington's Diaries), so there is no question that it's the
right plant. But the citations mysteriously terminate in 1862.
Similarly, cow-pea (actually cowpea) only has two citations from 1846
and 1890. Given that black-eyed peas (a variety of cowpeas, in fact)
were 1) first domesticated in West Africa, 2) were likely brought to
West Indies and the US via slave trade (either by slaves themselves, or
Sephardic Jews from North Africa--possibly slave-traders), 3) have been
promoted for cultivation by George Washington Carver, and 4) are a
Southern staple, as well as common food in Asia (esp. Burma and
Vietnam), I would assume that they warrant some research both on
antedating and post-dating. Similarly, many varieties of cowpeas (a.k.a.
field peas, not just black-eyed peas) are used for animal feed, so the
dates should be adjusted on that as well.
Universal Magazine. April 1749
p. 154
> There is also the kidney-pea, and the black-eyed pea, much of one
> nature and virtual property ; and because of its figure, formation,
> and likeness to the kidney-pea, have, almost to superstition, made
> some fancy it a specific."

The whole article is a description of edible plants grown in Tobago and
is worth closer inspection for some of these. I found several names
(mamme-apple and papaw-apple, physick nut, pome citron) that I am not
familiar with (avocado and papaya, castor bean and grapefruit,
respectively?) and some variations may be worth exploring. One item that
is mentioned is tuber "eddies", which I suspect is now referred to as
"eddo" (a kind of taro root)--neither in OED, although eddo is in
Compact Oxford, AHDE, MW11 and Encarta. "Bonano" may also give a nice
interdating (1613-1793). "Prickle-pear" (prickly pear) is well covered,
but the same sentence contains both "prickle-pear" and "prickle-apple".
Then there is a bizarre fruit simply referred to as "penguins"--it's a
mystery as the only description is "a brisk and sharp fruit" used "in

Finally, there is this:
The History of the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural
Knowledge. Volume 4. 1757
[The account is dated March 14, 1682/3] p. 194
> Dr. Plot shewed a parcel of legumina and other grains brought from the
> Indies ; the names of which were Surinam pease, clay pease, East-India
> maiz, black speckled pease, East-India kidney beans spotted red,
> cashou, a black-eyed pea, Jamaica pease, a large flat white bean, the
> red pea, a large black spotted pea.

This is difficult to date. The volume is published in 1757, but it is a
printing of "previously unpublished" papers of the Royal Society from 75
years prior, so, in fact, that should antedate both black-eyed peas and
cashew. OED has cashew from 1703, 1756 and 1796. Also, unlike other
tropical fruits and nuts, the entry is only for the tree and nut
combined, not separately. I guess, the date should properly be 1683 (1757).

Another "post"-antedating of "cashou" comes from Rabelais. I've
mentioned on previous occasions that there is an English translation of
1653, although I only can look at it in modern (1921) edition. If indeed
the wording is the same in the original (and I don't see why it would
not be), it would push "cashew" even further back (as it should):

> Thither he caus'd to be brought store of Mirabolans, Cashou, Green
> Ginger preserved, with plenty of Hypocrass, and delicious Wine.

Ginger and Mirabolan (actually myrabalan) are dated well earlier in the
OED, but "hypocrass" appeared to have no entry at all. It took me less
than a second to find "Hypocras and clare (made with red wine and white
wine respectively) were both spiced wines sweetened with honey or
sugar..." in a modern culinary compendium. Playing with a couple of
variation discovers the entry for "hippocrass", which has a number of
variations (being a word of Middle French origin ;-) ) but "hypocrass"
not being one of them (and there is no corresponding entry for "clare").
A minor update, if any--the dates are nowhere near as early as OED
citations (Chaucer), although including a Rabelais quote from an early
translation is not a bad idea. In general, I found that the early
Rabelais translations have been ignored by the OED editors (it's not
among top 1000 sources and I've found several words where a Rabelais
reference would significantly antedate the current entry).

In case Rabelais proves too cumbersome, there is a dictionary of local
languages published in "Georgetown, Demerara", supposedly in 1678 (at
least, according to the title page--unless there is a C or two omitted).
The date of publication is a bit of a puzzle, as the font is distinctly
of 19th century, not 17th (there is not long S or other
pseudo-calligraphic details). The print is very clean and organized much
better than anything I've seen from 17th century books (or many 18th
century ones, for that matter), with clean vertical lines printed on the
pages (as opposed to broken, somewhat wavy vertical lines that sometimes
appear in earlier publications). I am tentatively identifying it as
1678, but it seems highly unlikely that the date is accurate. Further
doubt on the date lies in fact that [Sir] Im Thurn is identified as
"Curator of the British Guiana Museum" in Georgetown--an unlikely
proposition in 1678. This is an Oxford original and, it seems, their
cataloger also had his doubts--it is listed as "MDCLXXVIII (i.e.,
1878?)" for both WorldCat entries--one from Oxford and the other from
Berkeley and the Smithsonian.

There is no real text--just a multilingual glossary, in columns, with no
page numbers. Cashew is entry number 45 under Section I, Class II,
Substantives, on second spread. There are only 189 entries total.
Tables of Indian languages of British Guiana. By Everard Ferdinand Im
Thurn. 1678?


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