Daily Archives: May 2, 2021


I stopped by my neighbourhood lachanopolist – or so I thought – to acquire some basil. The emporium in question is Urban Fresh Produce in St. Lawrence Market, a couple of blocks from my front door, and I am on friendly terms with its proprietors.

As I came up to its frontage, I first encountered Anthony, co-owner, a fit fellow somewhere in his thirties with assorted tattoos. “How is my friendly neighbourhood lachanopolist?” I said.

“Your what?” he said.

“Lachanopolist,” I said. “Herb-seller.”

“That’s a word?” he said.

“I’ve been told,” I said.

“I’ll sell you herbs,” he said. “Whaddyou want? We got some fresh basil in.”

“Perfect,” I said.

His phone went off. “Sorry,” he said, “I gotta take care of this. You can find it, right?” And he detached.

I went in through the entry between the berries and the cash register. The universally beloved Fiona, busy at cash, waved hi. I headed towards where the herbs usually were. Lou, the other co-owner, about the same age and description as Anthony but a bit taller, was in that aisle.

“I’ve come to my friendly neighbourhood lachanopolist,” I said.

“Your what?” Lou said.

“Lachanopolist,” I said. “Herb-seller.”

“Do you get paid to know that?” he said.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “You got herbs, though…” I said.

“Yeah, whaddyou need? It’s all right here.”

I started looking through the various vegetation: rosemarysagethyme

Lou started walking away to take care of some stocking. “Don’t leave without having an espresso,” he said.

I gave him a thumbs-up. Then I looked back to the shelf.

Huh. Where’s the basil.

Fiona, who had detached from the cash, came by. “Hellooooo. What you looking for?”

“I came to my local lachanopolist to buy some basil.”

“Your what?” Fiona said.

“Lachanopolist,” I said. “Herb-seller.”

“You want some herb?” Fiona said. “Will you sell me some herb?” She made a smoking gesture, then laughed.

“I’m not in the business!” I said. “But you are.”

“We don’t sell that kind,” she said. “Maybe try Front Street!” And she laughed again.

“I’m actually here for basil,” I said.

“Ohhhhh,” Fiona said. “Basil out front. That way. Past the berries.” She pointed to the far corner of the establishment (admittedly not a great distance). Then she headed back to the cash register to ring through a customer who had walked up.

I walked back over towards the front corner. Sure enough, there was fresh basil in large bunches. There was also Bianca, sister of Anthony. 

“Hello!” Bianca said.

“Hey,” I said. “I came to my friendly neighbourhood lachanopolist for some fresh basil.”

She made a bit of a face. “Your friendly neighbourhood what?”

“Lachanopolist,” I said. “Herb-seller. I swear I read it in a dictionary.” I pulled out my phone.

“If you were selling words, you could charge a lot for them, you know,” she said.

“I charge enough to be able to afford your stuff,” I said. I opened the Oxford English Dictionary, still displaying the entry for lachanopolist. “See?” I said, handing the phone to her. “A seller of herbs and vegetables.” I didn’t bother boring her with the etymology, from Greek λάχανον ‘vegetable’ and -πώλης ‘dealer’.

She looked at the phone. Her eyes are younger than mine and she saw some smaller text below the definition. “Apparently only in dictionaries,” she read, and handed it back to me.

I took the phone and pulled my glasses off my face (I’m nearsighted, so this is what I do to read small things) and looked closely. Yes, right under the definition, as I had read it, was the caveat, as she had read it.

“I don’t think I’m selling herbs in a dictionary,” she said. “I’m selling them in a market!”

“Well, that’s one for the books,” I said. “I have no idea who sells herbs in dictionaries, but I guess they sell them by the leaf.” Bianca made another wry face. “Anyway,” I said, “you’re not lackin’ basil.” I held up the bunch.

“Glad you found what you need,” she said. “You want an espresso?”

Disclaimer: The people named here are all real people, and very nice ones too, but this particular interaction never actually happened.