Your life changes the day you realize that “sweetmeats” are actually pastries, “mincemeat” can refer to dried fruit cooked into a pie and ordering a plate of “sweetbreads” will get you a tasty calf pancreas. Misnomers like these just make you trust the world a little bit less. So, you can imagine how distraught I was to learn that corned beef has literally nothing to do with the yellow vegetable that grows on stalks. Well … almost nothing.
“Corn” as we know it in Modern English has a rich etymology dating back to the Proto-Germanic kurnam, meaning “small seed.” This creates an obvious connection to the corn that we eat grilled with butter; what are kernels if not hundreds of small seeds lined up in a row? But Old English used the word corn much how we use “grain” today — that is to say, corn referred to the overarching category of small, granular cereals rather than to any specific plant.