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Word for the Wise July 28, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Poor man's treacle

As an estimated 130,000 people make their way to Gilroy, California's Garlic Festival, we're doing a bit of celebrating ourselves. Our tribute to the stinking rose has less to do with collecting names for various sorts of garlics (and other members of the genus allium)—think field garlic (also called wild garlic and crow garlic), daffodil garlic, and meadow garlic, to name just a few—and more to do with a phrase we came across while researching garlic: poor man's treacle. (来源:www.EnglishCN.com)

Garlic is known as "poor man's treacle" because it was once thought to be an antidote to animal poison. Originally, treacle (a word with its roots in Greek) referred to a medicinal compound formerly in wide use as a remedy against poison.

In case our leap from bulb vegetables to animal poison antidotes to medicinal compounds is leaving you dizzy, we'll explain. Those long-ago medicinal compounds—the treacles—included honey (either as medicine or as sweetener). When the medicinal compound treacle became less common, treacle retained its association with sweetness. In British English, treacle can refer to both "molasses" and to "golden syrup," a blend of molasses, invert sugar, and corn syrup. And, since the late 18th century, treacle also has enjoyed a figurative sense: it is used for something (such as a tone of voice) heavily sweet and cloying, surely the antithesis of garlic.

 
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