Change is everywhere. It’s been around since the beginning of time. We witness it every day — as with the shifting position of the sun in the sky; every year, in the segueing from one season to another. Things change, people change, habits change, trends change.
Used to be a time when the postman pedalled his cycle from house to house reaching into a waterproof sack for snail mail letters — lengthy missives that took a long time to go from Point A to Point B. These days, the snail of the mail world has evolved. It has turned into a cyber stallion that can gallop, in an eye blink, from sender to receiver.
Its language has changed, too. No circuitous phraseology, it now relies on a little to say a lot. Less is better now. And so, enter the Age of the Acronym. Messages awash with ‘lol’, ‘asap’, ‘hmu’ and ‘asl’, including ‘rofl’, which I somehow have yet to actually see someone do. Ditto with ‘lmao’ but all that is for another place, another time.
However, while on the subject of acronyms, a relatively new one is ‘tilt’. What is tilt? It stands for ‘thing I learned today’. Which I like, because we learn something new every day.
For me, this day, thanks to a typical information-imparting chat with my mate Barney, I learned not one but several pieces of information, all connected with the same word source: ‘coriander’. ‘You know it as dhania, no doubt,’ said Barney, ‘but do you know it is also referred to as Chinese parsley?’ Yes I did, much to Barney’s dismay. But Barney being Barney, he wished to quiz me more thoroughly on my knowledge of coriander.
Aside from having been born in India and raised eating coriander-flavoured curries, and knowing it was the favoured flavourer of Indian cuisine, there was not much else I could add. All of which gave Barney the upper hand — and Barney loves an upper hand — and allowed him to set about widening my range of knowledge.
Tomb of King Tut
In this way I learned that coriander was, in the years BC, listed under K not C by the Ancient Greeks who called it koriannon (itself derived from the word ‘koris’, a bed bug; because the Greeks thought koriannon kind of smelled like a koris!) Also, about half a litre of its seeds was allegedly found in the tomb of King Tut.
Later on, Latin chose to enter the word under a ‘C for Coriandrum’, then the French gave us coriander and, although the Spanish call it cilantro, it’s been coriander to us ever since, in English. Yes, even in this day of abbreviated spelling, coriander (as of this moment of writing) is still coriander. It wouldn’t surprise me one jot though to see it soon in a diminutive form.
“One thing you’ve got to be careful of,” Barney cautions me, “is confusing cilantro with culantro.” That, he assures me, would be the equivalent of buying an air ticket to Grenada, but hoping to land in Granada and catch up with some Andalusian friends. Culantro is of a different genus and its leaves are more potent, I’m told. This powerful overdose of information on coriander, however, turned my attention to an amusing anecdote from a teacher friend in India.
In short, his Year Six pupils, during one of the Indian Premier League seasons, were asked to draw up shortlists naming five foreign cricketers they wished were playing for India, and why. One of his pupils had, top of his list, the name Coriander Son, because although he is a New Zealander, he sounds so Indian. Due apologies to the real Corey Anderson, but as with ‘tilt’, some days you learn not just one thing, but several.
Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.