Sweeter than roses? You bet!

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan writes:000_05232

Sweetness is a desire that starts on the tongue with the sense of taste, but it doesn’t end there. Or at least it didn’t end there, back when the experience of sweetness was so special that the word served as a metaphor for a certain kind of perfection. When writers like Jonathan Swift and Matthew Arnold used the expression “sweetness and light” to name their highest ideal (Swift called them “the two noblest of things”; Arnold, the ultimate aim of civilization), they were drawing on a sense of the word sweetness going back to classical times, a sense that has largely been lost to us. The best land was said to be sweet; so were the most pleasing sounds, the most persuasive talk, the loveliest views, the most refined people, and the choicest part of any whole, as when Shakespeare calls spring the “sweet o’ the year.” Lent by the tongue to all the other sense organs, “sweet,” in the somewhat archaic definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, is that which “affords enjoyment or gratifies desire.” Like a shimmering equal sign, the word sweetness denoted a reality commensurate with human desire; it stood for fulfillment.

By that definition, then, it would appear the term “sweet potato” is redundant.


 

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