In the pantheon of the less, uh, formal holidays, cheese—what Clifton Fadiman called "milk's leap toward immortality"—is granted a remarkable number of days. The folks at National Calendar Day count 19 cheese-related "national days," including one devoted simply to the food itself—National Cheese Day on June 4—and another devoted to those who love that food: National Cheese Lover's Day on January 20.
The word cheese likewise is granted a remarkable assortment of lexical properties in the lexicon. It's remarkable especially for something defined literally in such unappetizing terms as these: "a food consisting of the coagulated, compressed, and usually ripened curd of milk separated from the whey," and "an often cylindrical cake of this food." Cheese lovers, or turophiles, of course know cheese is so much more than its definition. What follows, however, is not an examination of the food, but of the place—or places—the word cheese holds in our language.