eno's vegetable moto

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu May 12 03:53:18 UTC 2011

On 5/11/2011 5:34 PM, victor steinbok wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok<aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      eno's vegetable moto
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Let me grasp at a few straws and speculate a bit...
> Earlier I mentioned an ad for Eno's Vegetable Moto in The Strand Magazine
> for 1893. I've done a bit more digging and found a number of other
> appearances both in GB and in the Straights Times archives (e.g.,
> http://goo.gl/azlMT ).
> Eno's Vegetable Moto was available as a companion to Eno's Fruit Salt. The
> company had headquarters in Bangkok, but distributed everywhere in the
> Pacific and in the UK and SA. The on-line scanned ads are available for
> years 1880-1897. I have no idea what happened to the company after that.
> However, it cannot be a /direct/ precursor to Vegemite. Although the
> Vegemite lore claims that the inventor's daughter pulled the name at random
> as a part of a contest, this easily could have been faked at the time and
> the similarly to both Marmite and Vegetable Moto suggests that the naming
> process was not so simple. But the disqualifying factor is the fact that the
> company was started in 1923--two years after Marmite was licensed in NZ--and
> I find no evidence of Eno's company surviving this long (unlike, say, Bovril
> that later bought the Marmite brand and is still around as various beef
> concentrates; an ad for Bovril can also be found in that Strand volume).
> On the other hand, Marmite started in 1902 and no information is available
> about the origin of its name--at least, none that I could find. That date is
> a lot closer to the availability of Vegetable Moto.
> Marmite website claims a possible derivation from the "French pot" names
> "marmite". OED claims the picture of a pot has appeared on the label of
> Marmite since the company's inception.
> http://goo.gl/CewyN
>> *Marmite* originally came in a small earthenware pot, similar to the kind
>> of French casserole dish called a '*Marmite*', (pronounced MAR-MEET). This
>> may be where *Marmite* gets its name from.
>> You can still see the original '*Marmite*' dish pictured on the front of
>> the pot, but we started using glass jars in the 1920s. The shape of the jar
>> and the distinctive red and yellow label have remained pretty much the same
>> since then.
> But, it seems, the contemporary Marmite promoters got the naming in reverse.
> The picture was placed on the label to associate the word (already known)
> with the mark (whose origin is obscure). "Marmite" does not mean
> specifically the pot of the shape pictured on the label--the term is more
> general (soup pot or stockpot is a reasonable interpretation). If anything,
> I interpret the picture as a play on words, an attempt at verbal humor from
> the inventors.
> Although Marmite and Vegemite were both based on byproducts from breweries
> (hydrolyzed yeast), they did involve vegetable components and thus were
> quite similar to Vegetable Moto in composition (whose formula was
> proprietary, but included yeast and vegetable extracts).
> Now, why "Moto"? "Moto", or, more generally, "No Moto" (although "no" often
> appears as a suffix on the head word), appears in Latinized versions such as
> Aji No Moto (the giant MSG manufacturer and the euphemistic name for MSG--
> http://goo.gl/szRjY ) and Dashi No Moto (the dry granules of "Dashi"
> concentrate--the traditional Japanese bonito/seaweed broth --
> http://goo.gl/oXuL5 ) and Tsuyu No Moto (basically, varieties of soy sauce
> used for particular flavoring, e.g., soup base -- http://goo.gl/f3Mzi ). It
> also appears in some versions of canned fried tofu--Inarizushi no Moto (
> http://goo.gl/vVMf9 ). As such, "Moto" appears to stand in for some sort of
> concentrate/extract/preserve or a distinctive flavor (flavor concentrate?),
> which is the same meaning as in "Vegetable Moto". Of course, I know no
> Japanese, so I have no idea what it /actually/ means, but there is a
> secondary meaning, irrespectively of the original (note that the picture of
> Aji no moto bottle linked to above is of a Peruvian product used in local
> cooking, not a Japanese import).
> There is a certain secondary association with "umame", which did not enter
> the lexicon in any language until 1908. Glutamic acid and its salts
> (including MSG) have a much stronger association with umame (which has
> always served a significant role in marketing of MSG), although chefs are
> more likely to associate "umame" with red meat and mushrooms.
> So, my question concerns the possibility of a connection between Vegetable
> Moto and the two "mites"--Marmite and Vegemite. Is it plausible or unlikely
> that the name Marmite was derived from "Vegetable Moto" or "moto" in
> general, perhaps in direct competition with Vegetable Moto? If so, what
> effect, if any, might it have had on the coinage of Vegemite? Does anyone
> know what happened to Eno's Vegetable Moto at the turn of the century? How
> long did the company survive?
> VS-)
> PS: I found a few more "No Moto" products, all canned:
> http://goo.gl/Jk0nV
> http://goo.gl/ZqnoK
> PPS: I just spotted another interesting connection. The original Eno's ad
> includes a testimonial that claims, "Saved me much misery from colonial
> fevers." Interestingly, a similar association exists--quite
> unjustifiably--with Marmite. British colonial troops received their doses of
> quinine in pills that combined quinine and Marmite. But marmite was simply
> the vehicle that also provided vitamins and a distraction from the
> bitterness of quinine--it was quinine that addressed the "colonial fevers".
> This suggests an even stronger connection between the two than I previously
> suspected!

James Crossley Eno, of Newcastle, apparently first compounded the Eno
products. There is a Wikipedia page for Eno Fruit Salt, which was
apparently marketed in the UK and elsewhere by GSK at least until 2010.
This product apparently is/was essentially citrate + bicarbonate (at
least recently): an effervescent antacid something like other fizzy
products, I think.

Vegetable Moto was apparently a laxative, and in this light the name
"Moto" may be based on Latin rather than Japanese (although I don't know
for sure). Coincidentally the best description I find at a glance is in
a Japanese page ...


... with the title "Sutorando Magazin no Iino no Koukoku" [I think] =
"Strand Magazine Eno Advertisements". [At a glance I don't see any
indication here that the name "Moto" is considered possibly Japanese.]

The "moto" in Japanese foodstuff names can be glossed "essence",
"ingredient", or "element", or perhaps in the soup connections "base", I
think (I defer to anyone familiar with Japanese OR with culinary words).
The "no" is a 'particle', essentially a possessive or genitive suffix or
postposition, equivalent to the preposition "of". I think when used in
Romanized Japanese this is usually separated as a word in recent times
although I've seen such particles attached to the preceding word in
Roman print occasionally. "Aji" = "flavor", so "aji-no-moto" can be
glossed "essence of flavor" or so. [I don't know offhand whether this is
originally a trade name.] "Inarizushi no mono" I think can be understood
as "inarizushi ingredient", i.e., the stuff used to make inarizushi (a
type of sushi), names of other canned products likewise. Again I defer
to Japanese chefs and the like.

I think "ajinomoto" can probably be considered a part of the English
language now, = "MSG". I don't know that the "moto" itself can be
considered English.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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