Makt-And-Cheese

cheesebrain

One of the more … curious things I’ve observed in recent months, is that the Proto-Indo-European particle which figuratively describes Cheese [Medh] … *also* works out as the fundamental root for a number of later terms for *Intoxicated* [e.g. Sanskrit: Madira, Madate].

Now, the reason why this is likely the case, is that the Medh particle in question … which *also* underpins the modern English term “Meat”, funnily enough, refers to something that is ‘greasy’, that is dripping. Which *can* mean something like a chunk of [raw] meat, but can also, clearly, show us something of the processes entailed in the manufacture of cheese, and also of various ‘intoxicating brews’ – such as the Mead [although this is derived from a … very close PIE ‘Medhu’ particle meaning ‘sweet’, ‘honey’ – and which also supplies us with further, subsequent terms for ‘intoxication’], the “Meath”, we occasionally hear mention of in ancient poetry.

Given the straining process arguably mentioned in the preparation of Soma, per RigVedic hymnals, which calls for both dairy-fluids and honey, in addition to the psychoactive infusion(s) in question … which one could probably substitute in a modern cheese-cloth for the wool otherwise called for, it is not at all hard to see how this rather-more-than-figurative linguistic relationship has involved.

Now, I do not for a moment mean to imply that cheese is, actually, a drug. Although somewhat to my amusement given the frequent and elaborate co-occurrence of Lord Indra and Soma in RigVedic hymnals, there was a rather *glaring* line in the place I sourced this image from that ran: “and then 10 minutes later you’re smearing cheese all over your nose and jumping over coffee tables while shouting about how you’re the god of thunder?”

But nevertheless. I do fundamentally believe that enjoying cheese – recently suggested to be something of a positive for overall longevity itself – is a pretty Indo-European thing to do.

One thought on “Makt-And-Cheese

  1. You’ve ended up with a little metathesis here: the PIE reconstruction for the root of madati is *meh₂d-, not **medh-.

    Where does one find the meaning ‘cheese’? I don’t think I’ve run into a single clear PIE term for this, and not one based on *meh₂d- at all.

    And if you’ll excuse some drive-by etymologial research… several examples actually show one IE language group’s term for ‘cheese’ corresponding to a “more primitive” meaning along the lines of ‘whey’, ‘soured’ in another language group:
    – Albanian djathë ‘cheese’ ~ Sanskrit dadhi ‘coagulated milk’
    – Germanic *justaz ‘cheese’ ~ Latin iūs ‘juice’
    – Greek τυρός ‘cheese’ ~ Slavic *tvārogŭ тварогъ ‘quark’
    – Latin cāseus ‘cheese’ ~ Slavic *kvāsŭ квасъ ‘fermented drink’
    – Slavic *sȳrŭ сыръ ‘cheese’ ~ Baltic *sūras ‘salty’, Germanic *sūraz ‘sour’
    – Tocharian B ṣarwiye ‘cheese’, Albanian gjizë ‘cottage cheese’ ~ Latin serum ‘whey’, Greek ορός ‘whey’
    – (the IE etymology of Persian etc. panīr I do not know / have a resource on hand for, but clearly it doesn’t match any of the other roots here)
    By this data, the conclusion perhaps should be that even soft cheese is an innovation newer than PIE that got named separately in each branch.

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