Use this forum to suggest Good Words for Professor Beard.
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Postby Palewriter » Wed Aug 16, 2006 11:04 pm

Geophagy (n)

The practice of eating earth, such as clay, chalk or dirt. Apparently a condition dependent on a dietary deficiency, causing the subject to seek a supplement in earth. In simple terms: eating dirt.

The compulsive habit of chewing on clay (chalk, etc) is called geophagia. Other related nouns are: geophagism and geophagist.

In use:

I like to use this rather arcane word in the sense: "I'd rather practice geophagy than visit Mother-in-Law this weekend."

According to the Online Etymoligical Dictionary:

"A diseased appetite ... prevails in several parts of Alabama, where they eat clay. I heard various speculations on the origin of this singular propensity, called 'geophagy' in some medical books." [Lyell, 1850]

Who knew?


Greek: geo- "earth" + phagein "to eat." (Etymonline points out that "the actual Gk. was geotragia"

-- PW
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!!! What a ride!"

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Postby tcward » Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:08 am

My sister's pony (well, technically, it's her daughter's pony) evidently has this habit. It sure was delighted to be scarfing down some of their sandy terrain while we were visiting her over the summer.

I thought immediately that the pony's diet must be short of some mineral... but the soil there (they live in the Sandhills region of NC) doesn't seem like it would be very rich in any particular minerals, other than silicon!


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Postby Bailey » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:57 am

Oh, Oh I know that one, pick me pick me.
[quote]pi·ca 2 (pk)
An abnormal craving or appetite for nonfood substances, such as dirt, paint, or clay.


[New Latin pca, from Latin, magpie (from its omnivorous nature).]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

ThesaurusLegend: Synonyms Related Words AntonymsNoun 1. pica - a linear unit (1/6 inch) used in printing
pica em, em
linear unit - a unit of measurement of length
in, inch - a unit of length equal to one twelfth of a foot
point - a linear unit used to measure the size of type; approximately 1/72 inch
en, nut - half the width of an em
2. Pica - magpies
genus Pica
bird genus - a genus of birds
Corvidae, family Corvidae - crow; raven; rook; jackdaw; chough; magpie; jay
magpie - long-tailed black-and-white bird that utters a chattering call
3. pica - eating earth or clay or chalk; occurs in some primitive tribes or sometimes in cases of nutritional deficiency
geophagia, geophagy
eating, feeding - the act of consuming food

mark saw-this-on-Designing-Women Bailey
ok, I just happened to be in the room when a family member was watching.

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Postby tcward » Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:19 am

I liked Designing Women. But I've always had a thing for strong-willed women. ;)


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