Sunday, May 24, 2009

Word Origins of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Commentary: Post I

Greetings, fans of word origins of English vocabulary words, especially Greek and Latin roots that form the vast majority of the English language! Thank you for reading my article from last week which concerned the Greek roots phyein--to produce and physis--nature, the primary root words for the English words physician, physical, and physics, an article which I will continue in 2 weeks time. I have been considering future posts, and have decided to begin analyzing different books that have changed my life, titles which have Latin or Greek roots embedded within them, from which I will not only illuminate the contents of the book, but also their relative etymologies.
Let's begin with Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a book which I will be discussing during the next two word origins posts. The English word "omnivore" is comprised of two Latin roots, that is:

Omnis: all
Voro, vorare, voravi, voratum: to eat (vour)

Focusing first on words that derive from the Latin root omnis:

bus: yes! An "omnibus" is a vehicle of transporation "for all," the "ibus" ending being the dative plural of the adjective "omnis." Omnibus was later shortened to "bus."

omniscient: All-knowing, via the Latin root scio, scire, scivi, scitum--to know, word origin of science, conscious, conscience, plebiscite, conscionable, etc.

omnipotent: All-powerful, via the Latin root potens, potentis--capable, powerful, word origin of such English words as potentate, potent, impotent, possess, posse, etc.

omnifarious: of all kinds, cf. multifarious

omnidirectional: in all directions

omnipresent: being in all places at one time

omnia vincit amor: Love conquers all (things), quoted by Geoffrey Chaucer in The General Prologue when describing the Prioresse, a Nonne, that is, a Nun who was a Prioress; the phrase originated in Virgil's Eclogues.

Focusing secondly on English words whose word origin is the Latin root word vorare:

devour: to swallow quickly or eat greedily

voracious: via the Latin adjective vorax, voracis: ravenous.

carnivore: an eater of meat, via the Latin root word caro, carnis: flesh, meat, word origin of
carnival, carnal, carrion, carnage, incarnation, carnation, etc.

herbivore: an eater of plants, via the Latin root herba: plant, grass, word origin of herb,
herbicide, arbor (not to be confused with the Latin root for Arbor Day, which derives from the
Latin root arbor, arboris: tree), herbalism, herbicolous, etc.

In my next post I will continue with more English vocabulary words that come from the Latin root word voro, vorare, and with the etymology of "dilemma," including SAT and GRE vocabulary related to that word.

Commentary on The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
A hugely influential book that discusses the origin of our food supply. Most people don't give a thought about where our "food" comes from, other than somehow magically appearing at the grocery store or something we get quickly at a fast food drive through (by reading Pollan's book, one will soon realize that "fast food" is one of the most pernicious oxymorons omnipresent in our culture). Pollan goes to great lengths to illuminate, for instance, where most of our meat supply comes from, and focuses on CAFOs, or Confined Area Feeding Operations, where most of the red meat supply originates; CAFOs are horrible places of disease, antibiotics, grain feeding to ruminants who aren't meant to digest grain all in the name of quickly produced meat, and living short lives in self-created filth. I will never look at red meat in the grocery store in the same way again; indeed, I now raise my own meat (I was a vegetarian for over a decade until I read Pollan's work) via oviculture, or sheep farming, where I allow the sheep to eat my lawn, fertilize it, and thereby grow meat and wool, all linking back to solar radiation, the ultimate origin of all of our food. I used to spend 4 to 5 hours mowing my lawn at least once/week, not to mention fertilizing it (most fertilizers are petroleum based, which are also very hard on the environment) with 10-10-10 or some such commercially produced non-green product; now, since I let my sheep into my lawn every weekend, I have cut down my mowing and weed eating time from 5 hours every 5 days to 45 minutes once/week, and I also do not have to fertilize the lawn either, which is in beautiful shape; also, the lawn, instead of just being purposelessly and, I must admit, mindlessly cut, is now producing food from sunlight for my family, all in a green hence environmentally friendly fashion. By not cutting all the lawn, I also do not have to replant; I leave sections of "standing lawn," which go to seed, thereby not only reseeding the lawn naturally as the wind blows (really, now, plants indeed do create their own seed...why buy it in a bag, made out of plastic itself, and use the gas to go to the store to get it, not to mention buying a spreader to spread the seed when the wind will do?) but, by letting those areas grow throughout the summer naturally they become "standing hay" which the sheep eat during the winter, hence not wreaking havoc by pulling out short sections of the lawn (which, by the way, after two years of this practice, has never looked better; I challenge any pesticide/herbicide/seeding/mowing/vast lawn-industrial-complex company to do a better job than sheep at a cheaper price with better and more environmentally friendly results). I am now in the process of selling my string trimmer, a hideously noise making device that pollutes the atmosphere at a rate that highly exceeds vehicle emissions; the average lawn mower, as well, pollutes at a rate almost 10 times that of the average car; so, one can own a Prius (as I do), but if one mows one's lawn, it's really quite self-defeating in terms of limiting one's carbon footprint. Yes, yes, one's lawn will not "look" as good, but really, is it worth the time, effort, large amounts of money, and environmental degradation? Remember that the origin of lawns were affectations for the wealthy who did not need the land to produce food; it amuses me that, even in the current economic crisis, people continue to cultivate lawns when they could be feeding their families with the land they own (why not create usable land via gardening instead of a headache-producing, noise-enhancing plot of useless grass?). Imagine all the grass in the U.S. being put to work growing food instead of being mindlessly mowed every weekend to only be looked at...a truly effete notion.
I will discuss more next week, focusing on chickens that lay wonderfully nutritious organic eggs while primarily subsisting on grass, which gives the eggs plenty of omega 3 fatty acids and a beautiful golden color, rich in vitamin E, much lower in saturated fat, and a high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids, about 33% of which is DHA. All while not mowing my lawn. food, less work, no pollution, no buying gas, spending more time with my children....or an "emerald-green" but in reality herbicide-riddled green carpet. You take your pick.
    Michael Pollan also has another very good book, which is a short guide to eating, entitled: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.  And also In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I have these two books as well; they will change the way you think about food, and especially its origin, which is often NOT of people's radar!

All of the subsidiary word roots discussed above, such as scio, scire, scivi, scitum: to know, potens, potentis--capable, powerful, caro, carnis: flesh, meat; herba: plant, grass can be found on a site devoted not only to the Greek and Latin root words of English vocabulary words, but also to giving word lists, via trees, of SAT and GRE vocabulary words for SAT and GRE prep. Knowing the core of the English language allows one to unlock that language, making the learning of English vocabulary words much easier.  Or, if you're looking to learn vocabulary for the SAT or GRE verbal section, check out, where vocabulary is taught to you via an Adaptive Reinforcement Engine in a fun and engaging way which at the same time enhances your memory.