Icky news in yesterday’s NYT (“Kentuckians Take Distilleries to Court Over Black Gunk”, by Melena Ryzik), which begins:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The sooty-looking black gunk has been here for as long as anyone can remember, creeping on the outside of homes, spreading over porch furniture, blanketing car roofs, mysterious and ever-present.

It was pollution, residents speculated, or maybe something to do with the industrial riverfront. But it turns out the most likely culprit is Kentucky’s signature product, its liquid pride: whiskey, as in bourbon whiskey, distilled and bottled across the city and nearby countryside.

[The culprit is probably the fungus Baudoinia.] … Naturally occurring, Baudoinia germinates on ethanol, the colorless alcohol that can evaporate during fermentation, making the area around whiskey-aging warehouses a prime breeding ground.

From Wikipedia:

Baudoinia compniacensis is an ascomycete fungus that has been observed on a wide range of substrates in the vicinity of distilleries, spirits maturation facilities, and bakeries. The fungus is a habitat coloniser with a preference for airborne alcohol. It was first investigated in 1872 when Casimir Roumeguère and Charles Durieu de Maisonneuve examined this black, sooty growth found on the walls and roof tiles of buildings near distilleries in Cognac, France at the instigation of the French pharmacist Antonin Baudoin.

My eye was of course caught by the name Baudoin, because of the great linguist Baudouin de Courtenay:

Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de Courtenay (13 March 1845 – 3 November 1929) was a Polish linguist and Slavist, best known for his theory of the phoneme and phonetic alternations.

and then King Baudoin of Belgium:

Baudouin (… 7 September 1930 – 31 July 1993) reigned as King of the Belgians, following his father’s abdication, from 1951 until his death in 1993. He was the eldest son of King Leopold III (1901–83) and his first wife, Princess Astrid of Sweden (1905–35).

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Baldwin: masc. proper name, from O.Fr. Baldoin (Mod.Fr. Baudouin), from a Germanic source, cf. O.H.G. Baldawin, lit. “bold friend,” from bald “bold” (see bold) + wini “friend” (see win). A popular Flemish name, common in England before and after the Conquest.

So we can throw in James Baldwin, Stanley Baldwin, the Baldwin Piano Company, the Baldwin brothers, and more.

Meanwhile, Baudoinia is pretty disgusting stuff, and extremely hard to deal with.


2 Responses to “Baudoinia”

  1. Victor SteinbokOh, Says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t brought a litany of “fungus among us” jokes with it…

  2. John Lawler Says:

    My eye was caught by the predicate phrase … is a habitat coloniser with a preference for airborne alcohol. Old Spice? English Leather?

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