Merriam Webster recently released a list of more than 100 new words chosen to gain entry into its Collegiate Dictionary this year. Two berries made it, acai and goji. Let’s hear it for the berries. I vaguely remember tasting goji somewhere, while acai has taken over my junk mail, claiming the mantle of most-tiresome from Viagra. I’m reasonably sure that neither are grown locally.
Which brings me to another word that made it into Merriam’s bosom, locavore. It’s a loca-noun, having been coined in our fair city by Jessica Prentice, chef and writer. Congratulations, Jessica, you’re immortal. The Oxford American Dictionary scooped Merriam by making locavore the 2007 Word of the Year. Do we like it? It certainly leapt to the job of naming a trend. Never before in the history of us featherless bipeds have we needed such a word. How well will it keep in the cellar? It’s an odd hybrid, “place-eater” literally. Would you like to come over and eat my place? How does it feel in the mouth? It slips between the lips like a berry (lo) with a firm skin (ca), followed by a spurt of juice (vore). Hmmm.
And it’s having an effect. This week Mayor Newsom issued an executive order mandating that city offices do a survey within the next 6 months of unused land, rooftops, windowsills and median strips, that might be suitable for community gardens and farms. I love the idea, though in a SFGate poll a plurality of voters (42%) thought it was “bad, expensive nonsense.” Twenty-one percent voted, “can’t wait for the first time they serve arugula at the county jail.” Har har. (What is it about arugula? The sound of the word, of course. Why don’t we pick on radicchio for awhile?)
Thirty seven per cent clicked, “great idea.” Call it a groundswell. But a pipsqueak Cassandra wants to suggest that the 42% may have a point. Can we imagine the mayor ruining his manicure? As one who grew up on a farm and makes his bread and butter gardening, I know that it will take lots of work, physical work, the kind we expect illegal immigrants to do. What will be the economic effect on the nail salons, the success story of our era? No doubt a salutary one. So I’m optimistic. There’s a hunger for this kind of restoration, and enough young crazies, locabezas, to make it happen.