This will be a relatively short post, because the mnemonic is a simple, rather normal and unambiguous one.
There’s a strange plant on f100r. It looks like a type of leek or slender onion, but its root is a hand. Yeah…
That’s four fingers and a thumb. Note how this hand is more anatomically correct than other Voynich hands. Compare:
Judging by the image alone, it’s hard to say which vegetable exactly is meant here. The genus Allium, to which leeks, onions and garlic belong, is one of the largest, with over 750 accepted species.
So let’s have a look at the label then. As usual, we ignore the initial <o>. The next glyph is a gallow, read as /k/. That means that the next one, looking like a “c”, is to be interpreted here in its vowel form: /u/. It is followed by a similar, yet slightly different glyph. I will read these two as a “u+r” ligature. The second “c” appears very similar to the /r/ component in bench ligatures, so this is a possibility. Then we have the “o” as a vowel. Possible cognates read /o/ or /a/ here. Finally, there is the last glyph, about which I’m still uncertain. In the liquorice post, it appeared word-initially and there it matched a glottal stop, or possibly a /g/ in cognates.
Could this label refer to kurrat, Egyptian leek? We can assume the /k/, /u/ and /a/ sounds with some certainty. The /r/ would be a new addition to our glyph inventory then: it looks like this in an u+r ligature. So then we have /kura?/.
The Egyptian kurrat was popular throughout Antiquity:
The culture and use of leek can be traced back some 3,000 to 4,000 years to the early civilizations of the Middle East.103 Ancient Egyptians had a fondness for leek. In fact, during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2925 B.C.-2575 B.C.), they adorned their pyramid tombs with drawings and designs of the plant.104 The ancient Greeks enjoyed leek as a source of food, as did the Romans, who preferred it to garlic and onions. (source)
Another source mentions how the Egyptian kurrat was regarded as the best leek by the Romans:
The famous cookbook writer in 3rd century Rome, Apicus, credited with writing the world’s first cookbook, recorded that the best leeks came from Egypt, and they were a vegetable to be served in their own right like asparagus. While onions and garlic were considered just a vegetable for seasoning.
From the Mediterranean, it quickly spread across the world.
Cognates of kurrat are still found in modern languages:
Arabic: كُرَّاث (kurrāṯ)
Egyptian Arabic: كرات m pl (kurāt)
Urdu: کراث (kurrās)
So we have a plausible label reading. Let’s see if it can be confirmed by our mnemonic. This should offer a hint to the Greek speaker. Greek for leek has been πράσον (práson) since antiquity, so they could use a little help to remember /kurat/. The mnemonic is a hand. That’s fairly simple. Ancient Greek for hand was kheír, Modern Greek chéri. That gives us the required two-consonant match to make the mnemonic work, especially if we assume the “kh” was pronounced by our Greeks as an aspirated /k/ and not a /x/. Then we have KuRat sounds like KheiR.
Like I mentioned earlier, I won’t try to determine which exact kind of Allium was meant here. There are too many possibilities, and the same name was applied to different vegetables. The word kurrat was a common one to refer to leek-like vegetables though, since it is still attested in a large area today.
One strange aspect remains: the leaves. They don’t look like the leaves of any Allium I was able to find. In fact, they look rather unnatural.
They are too wavy, and the arrangement of three leaves in an almost 90° angle is very strange. I see three options:
- This is an attempt to draw actual Allium leaves.
- This is an artistic convention.
- This is an additional mnemonic device.
I think the third option is the most likely one, but I have no idea what this could refer to. An object? A glyph? Do let me know if you have an idea.