What do “corny” and “corned beef” have to do with plain-old “corn?”

The grain called corn that is grown in the US is Indian corn or maize. It has been cultivated for long before the first Europeans arrived and is now grown in The Corn Belt. But corn also refers any leading cereal crop, such as wheat is England or oats in Scotland and Ireland.

The uses of the corn are abundant. It is the raw material used in the production of ethanol. It is the main feed grain for animals in the US. It is ground and made into tamales and tortillas, and it’s also eaten as hominy and grits. And, of course, it is eaten straight off the cob. Yum.

Nothing could be less yummy and more disgusting than the medical condition known as corns. Corns are found on the toes and feet. They are hard thick layers of skin caused by friction or repeated pressure. The word originated from cornu, or “horn.”

If you “tread on someone’s corns” you offend them by touching on a sensitive subject.

Corn syrup is another thing many of us try to avoid. This sweet syrup is produced by hydrolyzing cornstarch. High-fructose corn syrup is widely used in sodas.

Skiers talk about corn snow, or spring snow, which are small grains formed by the alternate melting and freezing of a snow layer.

Corned beef also has nothing to do with corn. It got its name because of the “corns” or grains of salt with which it is preserved.  (OK, but are hot dogs really named after daschunds, or something really gross? Here’s the answer.)

Corny is a frequently used slang word to describe something as old-fashioned or sentimental. It’s original meaning may have been “something appealing to country folk.” Perhaps that’s where the corn comes in.


  1. Trevor Harvey -  September 16, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    Under CORN, I read ” It is the raw material used in ethanol.” This is very poorly expressed.
    Corn is used in the manufacture of ethanol.
    Or it’s used in ethanol production.

    But it certainly is NOT used in ethanol.

    TH :)

  2. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  November 19, 2013 - 7:15 am

    I completely agree!

    I have always wondered where the “corned” in corned beef came from. Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, my family has corned beef and cabbage for dinner with Irish soda bread. When I was little I thought it was “corn, beef, & cabbage.” I like corned beef, but my dad does not.

    I like hot corn grits with cheese for breakfast, especially with warm, fluffy buttered biscuits with honey in the middle. And I like corn on the cob, sprayed with that spray butter stuff, perfectly golden and juicy. Don’t get me started on all the yummy foods I love…I could go on for ages about cheeseburgers. :-)

  3. Pinky -  September 22, 2011 - 6:56 am

    I agree with SassafraS.Really its a great article.

  4. Ahmed Bulbul Islam -  February 28, 2011 - 7:59 am

    Oh my God ! It’s a treasure house !

  5. chloe -  August 19, 2010 - 3:43 am

    That was great SassafraS!..the article is great..I actually wondered all my life what “corned” in corned beef means..didn’t bother to search anyway then bumped in to this blog..thanks for the info!!

  6. Click & Earn -  August 3, 2010 - 9:53 pm

    If you “tread on someone’s corns” you offend them by touching on a sensitive subject.

    Corn syrup is another thing many of us try to avoid. This sweet syrup is produced by hydrolyzing cornstarch. High-fructose corn syrup is widely used in sodas.

  7. Fluffet521 -  August 3, 2010 - 6:25 am

    SassafraS – WELL SAID!!! Thank you, I couldn’t agree more!

  8. Jeanne -  August 2, 2010 - 8:15 pm

    Don’t forget the whole black and white pepper corns that are used to season the beef brisket. Also, to “corn” beef is a way to preserve and season a cheap cut of meat by cooking it in water and alowing the meat soak in the seasoned liquid thereby making it more tender.

  9. Dan -  July 31, 2010 - 10:44 pm

    Man, I love these hot words! They are as good and interesting as Dr. Goodword’s articles, but are much more brief and thus more enticing to read!

  10. SassafraS -  July 31, 2010 - 10:19 pm

    First off, nice word choice there bacchus. Secondly, I don’t see why the people who give negative reviews of the articles put up on this site are persecuted and even at times, caricatured to the point of banishing this site from, say, their bookmarks. One’s own opinion on these articles should be expressed without the fear of persecution. I mean, if the writer didn’t want feedback then this commenting feature wouldn’t even be available. Moreover, if the writer wanted only good comments, it would be explicitly stated here. And yeah, sometimes negative reviews can be insulting, or worse, offensive, but here’s the big insider, not everyone is going to like every article. People have different tastes and will enjoy different topics. The way I see it, is that it’s useless to criticize, mock, or harass other people for their opinions. Sometimes a writer needs someone to critique their works; it can help them on improving their compositions by using effective elements of creativity, ingenuity, and perspicacity. Admittedly, some of the articles I find here are useless and even idiotic to me, while others can be and are very helpful. It’s all a balance known as equillibrium. Without good, there can’t be bad, and vice-versa. So, for some of us, let’s get our erroneous, myopic, narcissistic heads out of our collective asses. If we can’t live and have free-will of opinion, especially on the interwebs of all places, then what do we really have? Someone please tell me.

  11. carp -  July 31, 2010 - 8:48 pm

    Very informative. Enjoyed reading!. Thanks, Hot Word!

  12. Mark -  July 31, 2010 - 5:23 pm

    I wonder if that “Brazilian Beef” is really as good as they say? I hear it has a hint of “charro”!

  13. Liz -  July 31, 2010 - 5:19 pm

    thank you for the corned beef explanation, I was always wondering where that comes from. but cornu or cornudo is how some hispanic called men whose wife cheated on them, obvious. but dont call anybody like that anyway.

  14. Tammy -  July 31, 2010 - 5:07 pm

    Thanks Alex. Working for the UN, I can tell you that eating BEEF in General is DAMAGING then environment. Please see report called livestock in the shadow by my FAO colleagues (Food and Agriculture Organization).
    Also, grains and 90% of soya grown goes to feeding the cow yet millions of children die from starvation.

  15. Bert de Haan -  July 31, 2010 - 3:26 pm

    Alex, there has to be a better way to stop slash and burn farming than depriving the poor of their income. What do you think?

  16. Charles -  July 31, 2010 - 3:14 pm

    I’m British and never heard of wheat or oats being called corn before… they are entirely different things that have different uses.

  17. CORN | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 31, 2010 - 3:10 pm

    [...] we enter into this MAIZE OF POP CORN, SOFT PORN, HARD PORN and LORN PIQUOR,– corned beef and cabbage, and with corn [...]

  18. bacchus -  July 31, 2010 - 9:34 am

    Elucidating. Good work.

  19. Kate -  July 31, 2010 - 9:30 am

    Actually I was under the impression that “corny” was derived from country catalogs that would have really awful jokes in them. Either the jokes were in the section near plant seeds or there was a character named Corny, it didn’t just appear out of thin air in the Corn Belt.
    Oh, and this article was terribly written.

  20. Theo -  July 31, 2010 - 7:46 am

    Hey meleagrid, don’t be such a cob. It was a very informative article.

  21. meleagrid -  July 31, 2010 - 5:16 am

    At the end of this poorly thrown together ‘article,’ one ought to put, “Or something like that.” Otherwise, it all sounds Cornish to me.

  22. Mike -  July 31, 2010 - 3:45 am

    Great! Every day, every great article.

  23. Alex -  July 31, 2010 - 3:42 am

    Please don’t buy corned beef from Brazil. It is made from cows which graze on land made by slashing and burning rainforests.


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