A flavourful word with notes both exotic and quintessentially American. You probably learned this word when you were very young, and you may well have thought it had two syllables and sounded like it meant “view identical.” But you quite likely heard it even before that, as the name of a street. A piece of New York childhood (archetypal even for those of use who grew up in locales utterly different from that of the show), but we’re told that to get there is a magic carpet ride. Well, your magic carpet, when hearing “sesame,” might expect “open” before it – and then, instead of American mornings, you’re on Arabian nights. And perhaps you’ll end up farther east still and the word that comes with this one will be “oil” – of which a little drop goes a long way. And always, everywhere, you will find this with “seed.”  And such a small seed, but such strong flavour in the oil, and so well travelled! Well, so says me. The word comes from all over – our English version takes the spelling from the French version but the pronunciation is guided by Greek (English style). So go down the street, open the door to the store, and get some snacks – or some halvah or tahini.

One response to “sesame

  1. In Hebrew, sesame can be pronounced either SooMSooM or SHooMSHooM. Like the word shibboleth, it could anciently be used as a password to distinguish friend from foe. That explains why Ali Baba and his 40 thieves used this word.

    The modern Hebrew word for “password” (for your computer) is SiSMah, not very different from “sesame”.

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