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Hemp for Artists!




As Barry Evans pointed out in Field Notes ("Grimm's Law: The Phoenician Connection," Nov. 15), the plant called cannabis in Latin, following the k to h sound-shift of Grimm's Law, is known to us as hemp in English. There is another more recent English cognate of cannabis: that is canvas, coming through Norman-French into English about 800 years ago, much too late to have undergone the k to h shift.

As an artist I noticed the etymology of this word. Linen canvas, considered the best variety, is now made from flax fibers, but in the past was also made from hemp fibers, hence the name canvas. Many artists now paint on cotton canvas (something of an oxymoron) because it is costs less than linen. But what if hemp were plentifully available? Then we might have a good but less expensive type of linen canvas again. So legalize the cultivation of hemp already!

Orr Marshall, Eureka

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