Forbidden Fruits

wolfberry

There’s a weird fad for giving fruits (and other products of nature) odd foreign names. This seems to be because “foreign = exotic and cool” and, in portraying the products as such, salesmen can fool folk into buying more stuff.

George Orwell, of course, long ago marked and decried use of “Antirrhinum” for “snap-dragon”. Yet still they’re at it.

Take the humble wolfberry. Or should I say “goji”. I think “goji” has become so quickly and so deeply entrenched (I’d never heard of the word ten years ago, nor had anyone else, I reckon) that it’s almost completely wiped the poor wolfberry out [just in case you weren’t following, they’re the same thing].

But why?

Well, “gojis” are a “super food” hailing from the mystical land of Tibet. Calling it a “wolfberry” seems fine to me, but apparently it doesn’t tick all of the marketeers’ boxes. It’s just not as mystical, magical, and super as “goji”.

What else has succumbed or is succumbing to this foreign fruit naming fad? I can think of:

  • Sharon fruit, which is apparently now the “persimmon”
  • Ladies’ fingers, now “okra”
  • Blue ginger, now “galangal”
  • Prickly pear, now “fig opuntia”
  • White radish, now “mooli”
  • Long melon, now “calabash”
  • Soursop, now “guanabana”

These may seem like exotic ingredients. Which I guess in a way they are, although they are widely known, used, and available here in the world-inna-city otherwise known as “London”. But in any case, if we have an English word for the thing, why not use it? Why always resort to the outland and, yes, outlandish in a sad try at being otherworldly?

The English Never Have, Nor Ever Will, Eat Fruit

It’s a weird fact, but English distinctly lacks words for fruit. The only homeborn words being “apple” and “berry”. For this reason, we use these words a lot in compounds: strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, bilberry, raspberry, cranberry, and so on, whereas Spanish, for example, more often uses different roots: fresa, grosella, frambuesa. But despite our limited word roots, we none-the-less have many English words for these foods and so don’t need to resort to nonsense like persimmon (although, granted, many roots are ultimately borrowed, but have been “bishop-shifted” a.k.a. Anglicised, e.g., “pear”).

In short:

Let’s not give in to the “goji” or the “persimmon”; let’s keep making use of our ever productive roots (even those which are merely bishop-shifted).

 

featured image from http://cikipedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/wolfberry.jpg

© 2012 – 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry

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One Response to Forbidden Fruits

  1. […] personally got a bit of an -apple fetish; we used to use this word in compounds quite often and we could do so again. I mean, we’ve already got “pineapple” and “custard apple“. But what […]

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