Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cereal - A Divine Etymology

A bowl of bran cereal
Photo by Evan Amos


Adjective & noun. Early 19th century.
[Latin cerealis pertaining to the cultivation of grain, from Ceres Roman goddess of agriculture.]

A adjective. Of, pertaining to, or of the nature of edible grain. E19

B1 noun. Any of the plants of the grass family Graminae which are cultivated for their edible seeds;
a grain used for human food. Usually in plural. M19

B2 noun. Food made from wheat, maize, or another grain (usually as a breakfast dish). L19

A depiction of Ceres on an Italian banknote
Ceres in all her beauty on an Italian banknote

There probably aren't many people whose breakfast cereal puts them in mind of the divine, but mine invariably does. Back in the day, I used to play a computer game called Caesar III which required you to manage a Roman city, part of which, naturally, involved placating the gods. One of those gods was Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and, I must admit, I always fancied her a bit - partly because I found out that it's from her name that we get the word cereal (I was a geek back then too), and partly because, as I discovered in my extra-gameular research, she did rather have a penchant for having her boobs hanging out in paintings. However, seeing as Ceres didn't ever reciprocate my admiration (I'm reminded of her indifference every time I sneeze with a mouthful of muesli), I realised I might have to set my sights a little lower. Still, it's an interesting etymology, right?

A painting of Ceres
Ceres - An Allegory of Summer
Louis de Boullogne (1657-1733)
Do you like cereal?

Do you Ceres?

Do please Alpen your finest comments in the cereal box below.


  1. Musli: the floor-sweepings of the gods. Particularly those who keep rabbits.

    1. I love muesli. But it's embarrassing when you sneeze with a mouthful of it. In a hotel. On a date.

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  2. I don't like cereal.
    If even the goddess ended up having her boobs hanging out imagine what that blasted thing could do on mere mortals...

    1. Well I really have come up against the anti-cereal lobby here, haven't I?

  3. I'm with you Ed. Cereals are flippin' awesome. As was Caesar III.
    As indeed is Ceres.
    (And I shall make no mention of the cheekily included 'B' word for fear of invoking the wrath of Clueless)

    1. There's a lot of awesomeness right there, A.N. And discretion. Well done you for being so discreet.

  4. The husband is cereal-obsessed, do you think he knows about the boobs already? I only like Rice Krispies and the common Corn Flakes but only occasionally. When I was a student though, I hated cooking as much as I do now, and I had two big bowls of corn flakes for dinner quite often. Maybe we can make cereal dinner parties a thing so that I don't stress over what to make? I'll throw Ceres's breasts in the equation when I picth the idea. (Thanks Ed!)

    1. I think it's a winner, Evi - we could be witnessing the birth of the next culinary revolution here at Lexi.

  5. "..fancied her.....and partly because......boobs hanging out......"
    C'mon now Ed! Who are you trying to kid?!
    Partly? I'm sure that's not the adverb you wanted in this instance!
    Mainly springs to mind right away! :)

    Oh, I like cereal too, but just the plain ones like Evi.
    Weetbix was always a favourite.

    1. I was a Weetabix child. I specifically remember my Mum telling me that I had to kick my one-sleeve-a-day habit.

      And, no, Jingles! It's not just that with Ceres ... she ... umm ... could make stuff grow ... and ... OK OK ... it probably was mainly that ...

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