Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Are Lemons Sour?

There's the obvious answer--lots of acid--but what do they need so much acid for? As far as I can tell, it seems that the lemon is no natural phenomenon, but was created when ancient peoples bred sour oranges with citrons.

The true origin of the lemon is apparently shrouded in mystery; in the 1st century B.C., a Near Eastern priest was subjected to a great flinging of citrus, and there is controversy over whether the fruits in question were lemons or citrons. For many centuries (apparently), lemon trees were mostly grown as ornamental fixtures.

In the 18th century, James Lind discovered that lemon juice helped fight scurvy in sailors (Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, and more acidity makes for more sour taste). At some point in this timeline, bath salts come into the equation, and then the popularization of lemonade. In short, though, lemons are sour because that's the way people want them to be.


  1. Steve Dettweiler, Field Linguist at LargeMay 31, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    Micah, are you sure that Draconis (yesterday's post) is nominative case? If it is genitive, then the English equivalent of Ego Draconis could be something more like I am Dragonish (i.e. having dragon characteristics). But it all depends on what Latin declension Draco/Draconis is from, which I will leave it to you to research if you wish.

    1. I think you're right: draco is 3rd declension, so draconis has to be genitive.