This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Word To Use Today: basil.

Some words are just intrinsically silly, and basil is one of them.

This must be partly because of John Cleese and Connie Booth's marvellous sitcom Fawlty Towers, which stars John Cleese as the extraordinary Basil Fawlty: but of course Basil wouldn't have been called Basil in the first place if the name hadn't been funny to start with.

So why is basil so funny? There's nothing the slightest bit amusing about the word basilisk, for instance; and Baz as a name is really quite cool.

I was wondering if basil could be perfectly dignified when it describes the herb; but then I found out that the herb basil is also called St Joseph's Wort (and it's plainly impossible to take anything called wort seriously) and that there's also a variety called African Blue Basil, and, really, who can keep a straight face?

Boccaccio did write a serious story about a pot of basil - but, honestly, it's so gruesome you'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.

I think the only thing to do is to enjoy basil at every saying.

Basil? BASIL???

And, naturally, every eating, too.

Word To Use Today: basil. This word comes from the Old French basile, and before that from the Greek basileus, king, because saints Constantine and Helena were supposed to have found it growing on the site of the Holy Cross.

1 comment:

  1. Yup! We studied ISABELLA AND THE POT OF BASIL at school and I thought it was a bit gruesome even in Keats's words. We did giggle at these lines though, and went round saying them in sily voices:
    "O Cruelty!
    To take my basil pot away from me!"