This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Rest: Word Not To Use Today: umami.

Here's a young word.


It sounds like an race of evil extra-terrestrials with a propensity to smother whole settlements in surges of warm voilet-tinged mud, but it's okay, it's not. It's something you love.

The word umami is so young it's not in my 2010 Collins perhaps that means it isn't even English, yet. But it will be. Unfortunately.

Because although umami isn't yet definitely English, it is definitely already a scientific term. It's been a scientific term since 1985, when they held the First Umami International Symposium. In Hawaii.

Hm. Can I re-train as an academic, please?

Anyway, umami is a taste. It's a meaty, savory sort of taste that isn't bitter, sweet, sour or salty. I know the thing sounds a bit dubious, but we do have special receptors on our tongues to detect it, so it does exist - in our brains, if nowhere else.

The Roman sauce, garum, which was made of fermented fish (eeergh!) was apparently humming with umami. So are cured meats, some mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, cheese and soy sauce.

But as for the word itself - well, it sounds more like a groan of indigestion than a sigh of delight to me.

Word Not To Use Today: umami. This word comes to us from Japan. It was made up in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda from umai, which means delicious and mi which means taste.

I'm sure the word sounds much more elegant in Japanese.

1 comment:

  1. I actually have two UMAMI products in my cupboard in the kitchen. I swear by it...I have a powder and a paste. Lovely in casseroles or even in a pasta sauce. I use it a lot!