More on Carrots2/Wild Ones

Steve Long X99Lynx at
Mon Mar 18 21:44:38 UTC 2002

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
This is the second part of "More on Carrots."

- Larry Trask wrote:
"The word 'carrot', according to the OED, is recorded in English only from
1533.  But two respondents have reported the word, spelled 'karette', in an
English herbalist dating from about 1500 -- or before any cultivated carrots
are supposed to have reached England."

What should also be mentioned is that the earliest reference in OED is in
fact to the "Daucus creticus.... mihi uidetur anglis esse, Wylde carot."
Now, wild carrot not only implies the cultivated 'carot' were already around
(or why make the distinction?), but also that both varieties were already
being called carrots.  And in English.

A point here is that the carrot plant could have been cultivated -- well
before the advent of the Dutch-Spanish-North African-Afghani variety -- for a
large number of purposes.  In fact, there's a yellow-rooted carrot still
widely produced in many places specifically as animal fodder and it isn't
ordinarily even classified as a separate subspecies.  One of the other common
names given for QAL is "cow's parsley"  - the young carrot plant has leaves
very similar to its relative, the parsley.  Whether as animal feed or
medicine or gruel or for flavoring, the carrot may have been cultivated all

And once again it might have been a new use or a new group of users -- or
maybe just Classically trained academic-type naturalists - who brought the
carrot word into English.

- Larry Trask also wrote:
"Just to muddy the waters, Kluge, the standard etymological dictionary of
German, insists that carrots are attested in the Stone Age stilt-houses of
Switzerland, and that carrots were cultivated "early" by Germanic speakers. I
really don't know what to make of this."

What was found there were collected carrot SEEDS.  The most likely inferences
are that the seeds were collected either for consumption or cultivation.

Carrot seeds have their own utilities in the literature, mostly herbal or
"medicinal."  And they certainly could have been cultivated for such a
purpose.  But it's also possible that these other uses may have contributed
to the confusion surrounding the word "carrot."

Steve Long

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