Monday, December 3, 2007

qat, qats

Here is another valuable “u-less” “q” word: “qat,” a noun which also has a plural form: “qats.” It is a tropical evergreen shrub that can also be spelled “kat” or “khat” and is pronounced KOT. The plant, which is primarily found in Africa, contains a natural amphetamine that is considered psychologically addictive. Chewing the leaves can produce feelings of euphoria and stimulation. One source indicates that ninety percent of Yemeni men regularly chew qat and that its production and distribution have been a source of conflict between Yemeni and Somali societies.

One of the words I played during my losing Scrabble match in Florida (see: qi) was an evergreen shrub, but it was “yew,” not “qat.” Interestingly, the yew is a symbol of sorrow or death, while qat apparently provides euphoria and stimulation. Next time I’ll play the word qat, instead of yew, and hopefully feel euphoric when the final score is posted on the refrigerator.

3 comments:

Emilia said...

A comment:

I've discovered the most interesting portmanteau of all time: spam (as in junk e-mail).

From Steven Pinker's "The Stuff of Thought" (which you must read if you like words):

"Spam is not, as some people believe, an acronym for Short, Pointless and Annoying Messages. The word is related to the name of the luncheon meat sold by Hormel since 1937, a portmanteau from SPiced hAM."

Pinker then goes on to explain that a Monty Python sketch about a cafe where the menu contains things like "egg and spam" "egg bacon and spam" and "spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam spam spam" and how this repetitive silliness "inspired late-1980s hackers to use it as a verb for flooding newsgroups with identical messages." The word spread from there.

More from Pinker to come...I'm not done with the book yet.

Colin said...

I've actually heard about khat from the film "Black Hawk Down" and book by the same name.

It was known to US soldiers involved in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu because it was often chewed by Somali militia. This made them particularly manic, irrational (or euphoric, fearless) soldiers in the early afternoon, which is when the Black Hawk Down incident occurred.

Anonymous said...

I was curious about what the Somalians were chewing in the movie "Captain Philips". They called it "khat", I looked it up and found the correct answer.