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Geophagy

Definition: Practice of eating earthy or soil-like substances such as clay and chalk, in order to obtain essential nutrients.

Pronunciation: jee-OH-fa-jee

Origin:

Geophagy derives from the Greek words ge meaning “earth”, and phag-ein, meaning “to eat”.

Why this word?

In my early school-days, we had a kid in our class who had this habit of eating chalk.

My mates and I, confounded, always watched him savoring these pieces of chalk with a distorted grimace. His eating chalk instead of his lunch, was utterly unfathomable. But sooner rather than later, everything got divulged when one day our classroom ran entirely out of chalk.

The teacher came to know about the kid’s habit and told us about the deficiency of calcium that provokes him to eating chalk; surely he too was not aware of the word. Later on, I got to know that Geophagy has some health benefits other than fulfilling nutritional requirements.

Not too any are aware of it, but those suffering Paraquat poisoning are advised to swallow dirt, even at the risk of salmonella, as Paraquat is deactivated upon contact with soil. Treacherous Diseases, like diarrhea and Malaria, can also be treated by practicing Geophagy.

Geophagy is not trammeled to human beings. It is widespread amongst animals, birds especially- Grouse, pigeons, hornbills, corvids, cracids, cassowaries and parrots have all been known to indulge in Geophagy.

How to use the word geophagy in a sentence?

Nowadays, Geophagy has become a rare practice even in rural areas. So here is one jocular way in which I think the word could be used:

“When the match ended he looked as if he just finished a Geophagy session!”

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Written by Akshay Dashore

Akshay is a Civil engineer who, for his love of words, preferred words over engineering. He is an avid reader and a prolific writer.

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