Antedating of umami

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 27 04:53:52 UTC 2011

 Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> The OED has 1979 for the earliest appearance of umami. I found what appears to be a 1969 citation. The actual citation is pieced together from two Google pages.
> Japanese psychological research, Volumes 11-14, Nihon Shinri Gakkai, OCLC FirstSearch Electronic Collections Online, page 149 (,
> -----
> Yoshida (1963) studied the nature of 1 Formaly maiden name; Sachiko Ishii tastetetrahedron, by multidimensional scaling, especially with regard to the place of complex taste of umami (delicious taste) or shibumi (astringent taste) among the classical four fundamental tastes.
> -----

Thanks for posting this interesting cite. The date given by Google
Books is approximate in this case, I believe. The book in GB is
composed of multiple volumes of the journal Japanese psychological
research: 11 thru 14. The latest volume, 14, is dated 1972 apparently.
But there is a high probability that your citation is dated 1969. The
following link shows "umami" in several snippets. The snippet for page
149 shows the final three lines of the abstract for the paper
containing "umami":

Below is the bibliographic data for a paper together with its
abstract. The final text of the abstract matches the GB snippet. So
the paper was probably published in 1969. But this should be checked
on paper or a PDF database:

Japanese Psychological Research
Vol. 11, No. 4 (1969)
Japan Women's University and Industrial Arts Inst.

Abstract: In the first experiment, the distance matrix was constructed
indirectly from the taste profiles of 17-18 amino acids, and this
matrix was analyzed by the Torgerson's model of multi-dimensional
scaling (MDS). The results showed a triangular pattern on a
two-dimensional plane, the apices being sweet, sour, and bitter.

In the second part, the distance matrix was constructed from the
direct judgment of similarity, among pairs of amino acids and NaCl, at
the concentration levels of ×4, ×12, and ×32 their thresholds. MDS
yielded a quadrilateral pattern on a two-dimensional plane for ×4
concentration, while very thin taste tetrahedron were confirmed for
×12 and ×32 concentrations. The shortest edge for the latter two
concentrations were those between sweet and bitter.

Here is a short link to the webpage that lists the abstract:

The term "umami" appeared in the following 1903 text, but it was
treated as an element of the Japanese language and not the English
language. Yet, this cite suggests that a niche would be filled if the
word was moved into English. Interesting that it took so long.

Year: 1903
Title: A text-book of colloquial Japanese: based on the Lehrbuch der
japanischen umgangssprache by Dr. Rudolf Lange
Author: Rudolf Lange
Editor: Christopher Noss
Publisher: Methodist publishing house

If there were no (are not) unsavory things, the flavor (umami mo) of
delicious things would hardly be appreciated (understood).

The American Dialect Society -

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