This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 3 January 2014

Word To Use Today: diet.

Have you been living on a diet of roasted meat, cake, cream and chocolate?

Has every meal been an exercise in seeing how many calories it is possible to balance on a plate?

Is your emotion when reading about Victorian prisons a strong envy for their delicious and wholesome bread and water diet?

File:Peter Paul Rubens - The Prophet Elijah Receiving Bread and Water from an Angel - WGA20436.jpg
Peter Paul Rubens. The Prophet Elijah Receiving Bread and Water from an Angel

Are you beginning to think that gruel sounds rather tempting?

Yep. Me too.

Never mind. A short course of the latest grapefruit/cabbage/ fast/chopsticks/green tea/standing up/deep-breathing diet will soon have you snuggling back into your armchair with a nice juicy pie and a sigh of content.

Meanwhile the most famous diet is of course the Diet of Worms.

Me? Eat worms? You must be mad!

In this case, sadly, the word diet has nothing to do with eating. This diet is a law-making council. Japan has one, and the town called Worms (you pronounce it Vormss) in what is now Germany had one in 1495. The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire got together the Diet of Worms to raise the money to pay for various wars; but the councillors, having cunningly noticed that the Holy Roman Empire wasn't actually Holy, Roman, or, indeed, an empire, were keener taking the chance to reform the Emperor's powers.

On the whole they got their way, too. Which meant that the Emperor Maximilian's diet, while not including worms, certainly included eating quite a bit of dirt.

Word To Use Today: diet. The food word comes from the Greek diaita, which means mode of living, from diaitan, to direct one's own life. The council meaning probably comes from the
Latin diaeta, which is basically the same as the food word, but is probably mixed up a bit with the other Latin word diēs, which means day.



  1. Cue the "I'm on a seafood diet" joke ...




    Have standards of humour improved that much?

    1. For those who have blotted out the seafood diet joke from their memories... was probably for the best.