My wife showed me a story in today’s paper with a photo caption reading “A motorist passes a pile of milo at a grain storage facility near Canton, Kan., Nov. 10,” pointed out that the word “milo” was mentioned nowhere in the story, and asked if I knew what it was. I said I didn’t, and went to the AHD, where I learned that it is “Any of various sorghums that are cultivated for their grain, which resembles millet. Also called grain sorghum.” The etymology was given as “Possibly from Afrikaans mealie, corn, probably from Portuguese milho, from Latin milium, millet; see MILLET.” The possibly/probably stuff made me curious, so I went to the OED (entry updated March 2002), where I found an entirely different etymology: “Origin uncertain; compare Southern Sotho maili, plural of lēili.” Odd. Here’s the rest of the OED entry:
A drought-resistant variety of the cereal grass sorghum, Sorghum bicolor, introduced from Africa and grown esp. in the central United States. More fully milo maize.
1882 Rep. Comm. Agric. Georgia 1881–2 23 My attention was some time since called to the claims of ‘Ivory wheat’ and ‘Millo Maize’ to a place in our long list of profitable food crops.
1920 U.S. Dept. Agric. Farmers’ Bull. No. 1147. 3 Milo has long since passed the experimental stage as a farm crop in the southwestern United States.
1937 Handbk. Farmers S. Afr. (S. Afr. Dept. Agric.) (new ed.) 684 Early types not belonging to the kaffir corns, such as Hegari, Milo and Feterita have been tried but have not met with wide success.
1965 T. Capote In Cold Blood (1966) i. 7 One of these barns..housed a dark, pungent hill of milo grain.
1996 A. Outwater Water 94 Up came the water for stock troughs and the vegetable garden and fruit trees, and soon for cash crops of corn and milo and wheat and cotton.
At any rate, I’m wondering how widespread knowledge of this word is; are you familiar with it?