Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The "O" Word and the Language Police

  1. or·gan·ic
    adjective: organic
    1. 1.
      of, relating to, or derived from living matter.
      "organic soils"
      synonyms:livingliveanimatebiologicalbiotic More
        of, relating to, or denoting compounds containing carbon (other than simple binary compounds and salts) and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin.
      • (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
        synonyms:pesticide-freeadditive-freenatural More
    2. 2.
      of or relating to a bodily organ or organs.
      • MEDICINE
        (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.
    3. 3.
      denoting a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole.
      "the organic unity of the integral work of art"
      synonyms:structured, organizedcoherentintegrated, coordinated, ordered,harmonious More
      • characterized by continuous or natural development.
        "companies expand as much by acquisition as by organic growth"

    late Middle English: via Latin from Greek organikos ‘relating to an organ or instrument.’
    Use over time for: organic
The above is from a Google search that I did using the phrase  "define:  organic."  So, the word "organic" has Greek roots and in it's current form is from late Middle English.  You can also see from the graph of the use over time that, beginning in about 1825, the use of the word rose in frequency and has had regular, consistent use since abut 1875.  However, the use of the word became regulated in the United States under Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  

Recently I learned that, as a result of that act, farmers are prohibited from even using the word in a descriptive manner without a potential $11,000 fine for each use.  Really?  A word that has been in the English language since the early 1400s - prior to the European discovery of the North American continent.   Even if a farm is not holding itself out as certified organic, it cannot use that word to describe its growing methods or compare its methods to those of the certified farms.  A friend now calls it the "O" word as we chemical-free farmers cannot even utter the word.

How is it possible that a word that was in use during the British War of the Roses and is not a trademark has been essentially removed from the English language? 

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