Take it with a pinch of corn
GRAINS of salt were mentioned in the item about salary, and make another appearance in the etymology of the word corny, the subject of a query by Kathy Moore .
Corny or cornfed as in trite, hackneyed or sentimental, made its appearance about 1930 as a jazz musician's expression. The cornball variant arrived about 1945.
It might look as though corny were one more piece of city slicker mockery of things rural, as in corncobber, a rustic and corncracker, a poor white Kentuckian. But the slang term corn is much older, and almost certainly influenced the jazz meaning.
In the late 1700s corned meant drunk and in the 1830s to acknowledge the corn meant to admit defeat or error and hence truth.
Why did corned come to mean drunk? Probably because of the link with corned meat. Why was pickled meat referred to as corned? Because it was pickled using grains, or corns, of salt.
FEEDBACK from Leo Horishny: "You wonder how corned came to be a reference for drunk in the 1700s? Your meat reference notwithstanding, how about the fact that at that time, distilling was the most common way to transport the grain that farmers grew on the frontier, what with the dearth of supermarket chains and all
"The Whiskey Rebellion occurred in the late 1700's and was due to the prevalence of stills on Pennsylvania frontier farmsteads and their not paying taxes on the corn they were growing. I would have assumed the link would have, er, distilled from that aspect of then contemporary culture."
Leo's response got me so worried I lay awake at nights thinking about it. Finally my synapses clicked onto an item I'd read years before - so long ago that I can't remember the source - about the death of Nelson at Trafalgar (not Waterloo - see below). His body was taken back to London in a hogshead (now there's a word) of spirits. It seems that some dastardly, thirsty, low class, vulgar sailors broached the barrel several times.
In a reversal of the famous joke about Nellie Melba being given a Champagne bath by the burghers of Paris, the rum level dropped to the extent that only half of Nelson was pickled when he arrived in London. And half the sailors who were escorting him were pickled too. (Anyone who hasn't worked out the punchline of the Nellie Melba joke, and who is vulgar enough to want to know it, click here.)
Nelson meets his Waterloo
FEEDBACK 2 from Richard Vine, who precedes his comments with "AAARGH", then says: "Apart from the fact that Nelson died at TRAFALGAR (10 years before Waterloo, and a rather wetter location), Nelson's body was stored in a hogshead of BRANDY. To this day, some diehards from the British Royal Navy will still refer to brandy as 'Nelson's Blood'."
Quite right. Apologies for the Waterloo gaffe, and thanks, Richard, for pointing it out. Mea culpa.
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