Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Linguistic Soy Sauce

Soy beansNPR this morning had a piece on the cooperation of Greenpeace and the Cargill Corporation in attempting to slow the rate of deforestation in the Amazon basin. The major problem they are focusing on is land clearance for raising “soy”. I think I have heard this usage before but everyone interviewed on this show used it, making me acutely aware of the change for the first time.

What change? Well, if we say that we raise soy, we are categorizing soy beans as a grass or grain. We raise soy as we raise wheat, barley, or parsley. Soy, however, is a bean, a legume, which is why until rather recently why we referred to it as “soy beans”. Along the way, the two words were combined as a compound, soybean then, apparently, simplified to just soy.

I am not opposed to language change but I am uncomfortable, as I have said many times before, with linguistic inconsistency. So, unless we want to talk about raising lima, string, navy, black-eyed and snap, I think we should stick to calling soy beans soy beans.

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