Divided by a common language

Thanks to several readers from (I’m guessing) the US, who have got in touch to express surprise about the appearance of sweetcorn in the fields of Roman Britain.  They’re right, of course – maize wasn’t grown here until many centuries later, and is still somewhat temperamental, as our vegetable patch will testify.

The problem’s arisen because the word ‘corn’ means different things on different sides of the Atlantic. So just for the record, should  ‘corn’ pop up in any of the Ruso books, please read it as wheat, or oats, or barley, or any one of those cereal crops – definitely not the yellow stuff you smear butter on and eat off the cob, or feed to cows.

At a slight tangent, another reader was concerned to find the ‘modern Americanism’ of measuring in feet and inches. In fact, while we Britons have  gone over to metric measurements (although some of us still have to think very hard about it), the USA continues with a fine and ancient tradition. The Roman foot (‘pes’) was slightly shorter than the modern one but it certainly contained twelve inches (‘unciae’).

To anyone else who’s been wondering, I hope the books make a bit more sense now.

3 thoughts on “Divided by a common language

  1. Ahh! That explains something. My wife and I were watching Campion on NetFlix the other day, and Campion mentioned that one of the murder victims was found in a corn field. However, it was plain to see that he was in a wheat field. I thought it was just one of those mistakes that city folk make.


    1. OK, I have to admit that for a long time I thought a ‘wrench’ was a special and vaguely exotic piece of equipment that existed only in America…

  2. Lindsey Davis received the same American complaints about ‘corn’, and replied on her Web site in her usual forthright manner.

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