Dave of Balashon – Hebrew Language Detective (which I welcomed here and have since linked to less often than I should), has done a post—the last in a series on the five grains of the Land of Israel—on the Hebrew word כוסמת kusemet, which now means ‘buckwheat’ but once meant… well, that’s not clear, but I urge you to read his thoughts on the subject. And his final paragraph describes an interesting morphological/semantic split:

As we mentioned, Ben Yehuda made no reference to this usage. And in halachic literature, kusemet continued to refer to spelt. But even heavyweights such as these didn’t have control over the living language of Modern Hebrew. And the language seemed to come up with a solution of its own, and a strange on at that. Kusemet continued to be used for buckwheat, but the plural, kusmin כוסמין, was reserved for spelt – and you can actually find the two next to each other in the supermarket, even produced by the same company.

(In the course of his discussion, he links to this old LH post about emmer, spelt, and Italian farro; as usual, the thread wandered into a discussion of hats, snake goddesses, and what have you.)


  1. While I was reading the article I wondered why “spelt” was in the past tense. Probably because it’s a thing of the past, I guessed.

  2. Yeah, and I was surprised that the old strong verb “wheat” is still in use: wheat, what, whuzziz.

  3. Stu, that wins the thread before it even gets started.

  4. Trond Engen says

    The subject was too corny anyway.

  5. I’ve always wanted to win a thread, but this one is too small. When I enquired at Moira’s Alterations, the new owner Mrs. Atropos said there wasn’t enough material to do much with, but if I would come back after hours she might be able to fix me up. The place made me nervous for some reason – I think I won’t go there again any time soon.

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