By WILLIAM SAFIRE
That philosophy of diet was first recorded by Pythagoras of Samos who munched on his veggies around the fifth century B.C., with Greek philosophers like Plato, Epicurus and Plutarch embracing fleshless eating with enthusiasm. A few decades after Bish's endorsement (the teenager he seduced and later married, Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter, called him Bish), the diet was being called vegetarian, a word popularized by the formation of the vegetarian Society at Ramsgate, England, in 1847. After its planting, that word grew (from the Latin vegetare, ''to grow'') for a century.
Then along came the Yorkshireman Donald Watson, a woodworker in Britain and a devotee of greens, who was looking for a name for his newsletter. ''We should all consider carefully,'' he wrote his early subscribers in 1944, ''what our Group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called.'' He was tired of typing the long word vegetarian thousands of times and believed nondairy was too negative: ''Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we do eat.'' He rejected vegetarian and fruitarian as ''associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!) of cows and fowls.'' (That's milk and eggs; the poet Robert Lowell wrote in 1959 of a ''fly-weight pacifist,/so vegetarian, /he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.'')
Watson suggested to his readers that the newsletter be called The Vegan News. ''Our diet will soon become known as a vegan diet, and we should aspire to the rank of vegans.''
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