The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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December 6th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The recent neologism “locavore,” meaning “one who eats local food,” has caused some confusion.  Its spelling is not yet standardized; one often sees the variant “locovore.”  Those wishing to use the word are paralyzed by indecision, unsure what to put for that fourth letter.

To solve this problem, I propose that “locovore” be treated as a separate word, meaning “one who eats crazy food.”  I suspect that it may prove useful.  There are at least three possible definitions: someone who eats food that causes insanity, someone who eats food that is itself insane, and someone whose diet is dictated by insanity.

The first includes, of course, anyone who enjoys “locoweed” (plants of the genera Astragalus or Oxytropis); the etymology demands it.  But locoweed primarily affects horses, cattle, and sheep; therefore, the term may be more suitable for someone ingesting substances that derange humans: hallucinogens, for example.

The second definition applies to one who eats insane plants or animals.  Given the difficulty of identifying psychological and neurological disorders in the Vegetable Kingdom, we will, of necessity, confine ourselves to carnivores.  Someone who consumes animals with “mad cow disease,” for example, fits the bill.  But, although it is easier to diagnose fauna than flora, it is still hard to establish our criteria.  How are we to gauge the sanity of animals raised for slaughter?  Factory farming routinely yields livestock with neither healthy minds nor healthy bodies; those who consume the products of this industry also qualify as “locovores.”

A variety of types are covered by the third definition.  Often, the food choices of an insane eater may be perfectly anodyne in themselves, but their selection dictated by a pathological condition.  Schizophrenics’ diets are prompted by inner voices.  Paranoiacs are driven by fear of persecution (canned foods are safer from tamper) or megalomania (all bananas are grown for the subject alone).  Obsessives and compulsives need unusually repetitive and limited diets, often with elaborate rituals of preparation and consumption (such as Tesla’s urge to calculate the volume of every meal).  Delusionals are convinced that their meals possess illusory nutritive or curative properties.  We can also add to our list all those who suffer from religious beliefs (an imagined deity decrees certain foods sacred or taboo) or who cling to cultural stereotypes (a food is identified exclusively with a particular sex, race, or political affiliation).  Those afflicted with bulimia, anorexia, lycanthropy, pica, or other eating disorders may also fit into this category.

Less formally, the term can also be used for those who, although not certifiably insane, make foolish, “crazy” choices: for example, someone who swallows physically harmful items (rocks, glass, live hornets, noxious chemicals).  We can extend the category to those who eat conventional foodstuffs that are carcinogenic, contaminated (fish tainted with heavy metals), or simply devoid of nutritional value (junk food and beverages).

I hope “locovore” will catch on; it promises a rich variety of applications, particularly given our current dietary mores.  An antonym may also be useful.  May I suggest “sanovore”?  “Sanavore”?

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Dietary Mores · Suggestions

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mamie // Dec 10, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    That’s very nice. I bet I could really throw off the medical chart coders if I start writing it as a diagnosis.

  • 2 Angela // Dec 13, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I particularly enjoyed that you slipped lycanthropy in as an eating disorder.

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