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February 03, 2017  |  Friday words, 2017-02-03  |  621 hit(s)

Friday words for the beginning of February. Or "Febuary", if you, like me, are a fan and practitioner of liquid dissimilation.

Today's new-to-me term is vertical farming, which I learned from an article in the New Yorker recently. This almost seems like a self-evident term until you ponder what exactly it might mean. Terracing? Growing things on a wall? Growing some verticals? (Huh?)

According to the article, the term has a precise definition:
It refers to a method of growing crops, usually without soil or natural light, in beds stacked vertically inside a controlled-environment building.
As it says, the plants aren't in soil; instead, the roots are sprayed with a nutritious and delicious liquid via fertigation (fertilize+irrigation), another term I learned from reading about all this.

Per the NYer article, the term vertical farming was invented (at least, in this sense) by Dickson Despommier, Ph.D, who wrote a book in 2011 called The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century.

People who are involved in vertical farming are super-excited about it and talk fervently about the potential of this technique to revolutionize agriculture. I guess we'll know that vertical farming is a success when someone invents a retronym like "horizontal farming" or "land farming" for what we otherwise today know as just "farming."

On to etymology! Not long ago someone alerted me to the origin of the word diabetes. People in earlier eras recognized the disease; apparently there are records going back to ancient Egypt referring to it. They didn't know anything about the etiology of the disease, but they recognized it for one of its symptoms: copious urination.

Thus the name diabetes, which comes from a Latin word meaning "siphon"; the Latins in turn got it from Greek verb meaning "to pass through." The great Greek physician Galen referred to diabetes as diarrhea urinosa, or diarrhea of the urine. (There's an interesting article (PDF) in the Hormones journal about the first descriptions in medical literature of diabetes.)

Oh, in English, we started using the word diabetes in the 1400s. Here's a cite from 1475:
Diabites is an vnmesurable pissing of vrin þat comeþ of grete drienes of þe reynes [kidneys].
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