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Maize vs. corn: Summary of arguments[edit]

This section is a summary of old, settled arguments. Please do not modify it except to add a summary of a new and different argument on the same topic, after that argument has been held and settled in sections other than this one.

Here are the leading arguments on both sides of the maize-vs.-corn debate. In the future, instead of saying, "This has all been argued before," you can provide a link to this section so that new disputants can quickly get caught up. Contra the usual talk-page policy, I give you my permission to edit this section to make the arguments clearer or more persuasive, or to add arguments that I omitted. Please do not edit to weaken arguments, please do not add personal invective, please do not add counter-objections, and please do not sign your contributions. This section is for a clear and concise statement of the reasons for each position, not for back-and-forth arguing or conversation. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 12:29, 7 June 2012 (UTC)


"Maize" is precise, "corn" is ambiguous[edit]

"Maize" is the vernacular word that means the species of plant that this article is about, in all regional varieties of English. "Corn" has a confusing variety of meanings that vary by locality. In particular, one common meaning of "corn" is whichever cereal crop is the staple in a given locality.

3a. collective singular. The seed of the cereal or farinaceous plants as a produce of agriculture; grain.

As a general term the word includes all the cereals, wheat, rye, barley, oats, maize, rice, etc., and, with qualification (as black corn, pulse corn), is extended to leguminous plants, as pease, beans, etc., cultivated for food. Locally, the word, when not otherwise qualified, is often understood to denote that kind of cereal which is the leading crop of the district; hence in the greater part of England ‘corn’ is = wheat, in North Britain and Ireland = oats; in the U.S. the word, as short for Indian corn, is restricted to maize (see 5).

5. orig. U.S. Maize or Indian corn, Zea Mays; applied both to the separated seeds, and to the growing or reaped crop. corn on the cob: green maize suitable for boiling or roasting; maize cooked and eaten on the cob.

Wheat, rye, barley, oats, etc. are in U.S. called collectively grain. Corn- in combinations, in American usage, must therefore be understood to mean maize, whereas in English usage it may mean any cereal; e.g. a cornfield in England is a field of any cereal that is grown in the country, in U.S. one of maize.

Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "corn"

Wikipedia's guidelines for naming articles about plants favor using the scientific term unless the plant has a significant agricultural (or other) use, as this plant does; then, discuss towards consensus, favoring both precision and a vernacular term.


"Maize" is a formal, obscure word[edit]

Many more people know the word "corn" than know "maize". "Maize" is a somewhat formal, technical word, not as widely known. WP:COMMONNAME says that article titles should not be "pedantic".


Google searches show the word "corn" used much more than "maize". Consequently, readers are much more likely to look up "corn" than "maize". Titling the article "Corn" would make the information easy for most people to find. Titling it "Maize" makes it hard for people to find.

Objection On 1-Oct-2012, this article came up as the #1 result on Google and Bing, and the #2 result on Yahoo!. redirects to Maize. Calling this article "Maize" is not presenting an obstacle for people looking up "corn", even for people who don't know the word "maize".

The U.S. usage should prevail[edit]

The U.S. has more native English speakers than any other country. Wikipedia would show anti-American bias by not following U.S. usage where it conflicts with other usages.

Inconsistent with other usage[edit]

No one says "popmaize", "maize on the cob", etc. The WP:FLORA guidelines say to favor consistency.

Objection These examples actually illustrate the highly varied, ambiguous meaning of "corn". The OED's definition of another sense of "corn" below explains why no one says "peppermaize" or "barleymaize".

2. spec. The small hard seed or fruit of a plant; now only with contextual specification or defining attribute, as in barley-corn, pepper-corn, etc.

a. A seed of one of the cereals, as of wheat, rye, barley, etc.

Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "corn"

It isn't unusual for regional terminology to vary according to context. For example, small sweets are called "candy" in the U.S. and "lollies" in Australia, but Americans and Australians alike enjoy "lollipops" and "candy canes"; no one calls them "candy pops" or "lollicanes".

Corn in non-U.S. usage[edit]

Some readers have offered anecdotes of personal experience, observing that if you asked for "maize" in a restaurant in the UK, the waiter would look at you funny. A reader offered a recipe from a British web site (no longer available) that listed "corn from 1 corn-cob, removed and toasted" among its ingredients. These show that in the present day, even outside the U.S., the specific sense of "corn" to mean maize has displaced its older, generic sense of any cereal grain or a local staple grain.

  • Objection These examples actually illustrate the complexity and ambiguity of the word "corn". The word "cob" provides context that shifts the meaning of "corn" to maize, even in the UK. People do refer to maize as "corn" outside the U.S., but usually with some sort of qualifier, such as "sweetcorn", which is the normal term in the UK for maize eaten this way.

Other encyclopedias say "corn"[edit]

Britannica's article about this plant is titled "corn", therefore "corn" means the same thing in British usage.

  • Objection Despite its name, Britannica is an American publication, following U.S. usage.

This section is a summary of old, settled arguments. Please do not modify it except to add a summary of a new and different argument on the same topic, after that argument has been held and settled in sections other than this one.


What does B.P. stand for? Before present? If so, why are we using this novel dating system on this article instead of BC/BCE?--Ermenrich (talk) 17:51, 8 September 2018 (UTC)

B.P. does mean "before present" but it is an academic standard, not a novel system. Rmhermen (talk) 18:58, 8 September 2018 (UTC)
It strikes me as likely to be confusing for the average reader - I have a humanities PhD. and had never encountered it. Would it possible to include BCE/CE dates in parentheses?--Ermenrich (talk) 21:23, 8 September 2018 (UTC)
B.P. is standard in geology, paleontology and archaeology. It means, roughly, before 1950 (take as "present" for various reasons from physics and recent history) and is especially used with radiocarbon dating. Kdammers (talk) 06:20, 14 December 2018 (UTC)

South America[edit]

We have some discussion of development south of Mexico. Is it time to expand this using recent research results (,,, or should we wait for more derivative material? Kdammers (talk) 06:25, 14 December 2018 (UTC)