Daily Archives: January 10, 2009


If you read ingredient lists on labels, you’ll likely recognize this word and think of its usual partner, gum. Otherwise, you may think it a typo for a Hindustani ox, a sentry, or a raunchy thrash metal/punk band, or perhaps a clip out of a rough Spanish brandy.* The act of saying it involves roughly the same oral gesture as sucking on a straw, but wider open, but it has not the voicelessly crisp onset of quoi or choir bur rather the meaty, sticky [g] that makes it sound so similar to gore. The gu may give a taste of gum (to see) or goo (to hear); given the thickening properties of guar gum, this is apposite. But the guar is not simply a gum plant; actually, it’s a legume, often eaten as such in India, where the word and the thing come from. The word, for its part, has been chewed and reduced over the years, the Hindi guar coming from Sanskrit gopali, which in turn comes from gopalakarkati, meaning “cowherder’s cucumber,” the beginning of which comes from gauh, “cow,” which also gives us gaur, the enormous bovine that might be found chewing on guar beans.

*gaur, guard, Gwar, aguardiente