What do “corny” and “corned beef” have to do with plain-old “corn?”

The grain called corn that is grown in the US is Indian corn or maize. It has been cultivated for long before the first Europeans arrived and is now grown in The Corn Belt. But corn also refers any leading cereal crop, such as wheat is England or oats in Scotland and Ireland.

The uses of the corn are abundant. It is the raw material used in the production of ethanol. It is the main feed grain for animals in the US. It is ground and made into tamales and tortillas, and it’s also eaten as hominy and grits. And, of course, it is eaten straight off the cob. Yum.

Nothing could be less yummy and more disgusting than the medical condition known as corns. Corns are found on the toes and feet. They are hard thick layers of skin caused by friction or repeated pressure. The word originated from cornu, or “horn.”

If you “tread on someone’s corns” you offend them by touching on a sensitive subject.

Corn syrup is another thing many of us try to avoid. This sweet syrup is produced by hydrolyzing cornstarch. High-fructose corn syrup is widely used in sodas.

Skiers talk about corn snow, or spring snow, which are small grains formed by the alternate melting and freezing of a snow layer.

Corned beef also has nothing to do with corn. It got its name because of the “corns” or grains of salt with which it is preserved.  (OK, but are hot dogs really named after daschunds, or something really gross? Here’s the answer.)

Corny is a frequently used slang word to describe something as old-fashioned or sentimental. It’s original meaning may have been “something appealing to country folk.” Perhaps that’s where the corn comes in.