guano, n. and v.
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The Independent Culture
THE VICTIMS of the Nato bombs would surely prefer the seabird droppings - guano - which first prompted American expansion. In 1856, during the Presidency of Franklin Pierce, Congress asserted that, to undercut Peru's supplies, anybody who found an unclaimed island could annex it and use the phosphate-rich dung for American fertiliser.

From the Spanish, and first noted in English at the beginning of the 17th century, guano soon become such a trade that 300 laden ships regularly sailed into Liverpool, and it turned into a metaphor. In a Disraeli novel one aristocrat "guanoed her mind by reading French novels", while, in one of Ouida's, it was said, "I find soda-water and brandy the best guano for the cultivation of my intellect".