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Word for the Wise June 01, 2007 Broadcast Topic: Grist and grits

We shouldn't be surprised that recent programs on fodder and grist were so much grist for listeners. One correspondent asked if the word grist somehow churned out the edible grits? (来源:英语麦当劳-英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

The idea has both logic and taste on its side. After all, metathesis—"the process of transposing two phonemes in a word"—is responsible for the development of the word bird from brid and of third from thrid. And grist—which originally referred to "the act of grinding"—has an old, old sense naming "the product obtained from a batch of grain including the flour or meal and the grain offals;" while grits, as its fans know, refers to "coarsely ground hulled grain, such as maize, wheat or rice," and especially to "ground hominy, kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution and then washed in order to remove the germ."

So is grist the ancestor of grits? Nope. Grits is believed to have come by that name partly from the grit that names a "hard sharp granule" (and which has ancient kin in the Old High German word for sand) and partly from the older dialectal grit which meant "coarse meal." But although grist did not churn out grits, the two terms do share ancestral Old English kin in greot, meaning "sand; grit," and which itself has an ancestor with the rough sense "rubbing."

 
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