The third of our Twelve Thousand Words, by Karen Jeynes

A legendary highly intoxicating beverage, made primarily from the flowers and leaves of artemisia absinthium, or green wormwood. The height of its popularity came in late 19th century Paris, where it was the bohemians rapturously embraced it. Conservative types were horrified by it, and by 1915 it was banned in the US and much of Europe. Perhaps some of its negative effects were due to cheapskate producers using copper to add the greenish tint. These days absinthe is freely available, and you can even buy DIY absinthe kits.

The Green Fairy, portrayed above by the diminuitive diva Kylie Minogue in Moulin Rouge, is a nickname for absinthe, because, well, because. When creatives imbibed absinthe, she would appear and guide them in the creation of  inspired work. Sort of a fluttering headache inducing multitasking mini muse.

Absinthe is also a sexy burlesque circus show in Vegas, and a software for jailbreaking phones that “relies on vulnerabilites in the Racoon daemon”. Which doesn’t sound terrifying at all.

In case you missed them – A is also for AARDVARK and ANATHEMA.


4 Responses to “Absinthe”

  1. Isn’t it a bit of a cop out, on a site about words, to say that absinthe is nicknamed ‘the green fairy’, ‘well, because’? Isn’t it linked to other nicknames, such as ‘the green muse’, so called because artists said it inspired them? ‘The green fairy’ itself comes from the French ‘La Fee Verte’.

  2. Hi Justin, sorry if it seemed lax – yes, the green fairy is la fée verte in French, and symbolised artistic enlightenment and inspiration – there are some nice titbits here http://www.absinthefever.com/green-fairy

  3. I suppose what I was trying to imply is that, like much of etymology, we can’t be clear of the precise origins of things, although we can hypothesis. Usage is of primary importance, and so the fact that a certain phrase was adopted is to me of most interest.

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