Printable Version
Pronunciation: ter-wah-rism Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: I'll bet you thought we misspelled terrorism, didn't you? No, this good word refers to the flavor and bouquet that a grape—and the wine made from it—acquires from the earth it grows in. It is a simplification of the French phrase goût de terroir "taste of the soil".

Notes: The terroir [ter-wah(r)] is the soil of the vineyard, but the vineyard's drainage and the angle of the sun also influence the flavor of the grape. You needn't fear a terroirist attack since everyone agrees that the terroir influences the taste of at least some types of wine. The terroirist believes that it is the dominant factor. The counter-terroirist, of course, thinks that the dominant determinants of the taste and bouquet are the yeast, the fermentation, and the casks.

In Play: Until the movie Sideways appeared, this Good Word was, admittedly, peripheral. But if you want to talk wine with Miles Raymond and Maya, you will need today's word: "I can't stand being in the presence of Guy Noir's wife, Bette; not only does she drink Merlot, but she is a militant supporter of terroirism." Now that lines have been drawn, how long will it be before the conflict assumes a more ominous cast: "Someone said that the barrel-makers and yeast manufacturers have formed a counter-terroirist task force to protect Americans from the threat of terroirism."

Word History: The root of this Good word, French terroir, originated in Latin terra "dry land". It is related to torrere "to burn", from which we derived both torrid and torrent, meaning, oddly enough, "gushing water". Terra is found in terra firma "solid ground", terrace, and in Mediterranean "middle earth" from medi "middle" + terra "earth, land" (Tolkien fans take note). The same ancient root, ters- "dry", ended up in English as thirst. There is no relation with terror, which comes from a different root meaning "shake".

Dr. Goodword,

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