Thursday, August 3, 2017

Language of Confusion: Feeling Fruity, Part III

Still more fruits! There are a lot of them. Most of this week is stuff that is berries or just ends in berries. Because somehow there’s a distinction.

Strawberry comes from the Old English streawberige, which obviously means strawberry (although it was once called eorÞberige, earth berry). And it’s just a combination of the words straw and berry, despite being neither of those things. Seriously, it’s not a berry. It is however a member of the rose family.

Raspberry showed up in the early-mid seventeenth century, although earlier it was raspis berry. That’s thought to be from raspise, a rose-colored wine, which is from the Anglo Latin vinum raspeys. A lot about the word is just guessing, though. Some think it might be related to rasp, or the Old French raspe and Medieval Latin raspecia. It certainly seems to make sense, but as we all know that doesn’t mean it’s so. Also they’re not berries either.

Cranberry showed up in the mid seventeenth century when American English adapted the Low German word kraanbere, the kraan being related to crane, of course. As to why they named it after a crane, maybe because the plants’ stamens looks like the beaks of cranes? At least these ones are actually berries. I think. I haven’t found a source that confirms they’re not, anyway.

Yes, banana. They’re berries. And that’s probably the least weird fact I’ve learned today. It showed up in the late sixteenth century, actually coming to English from a West African origin (probably from a language called Wolof which calls banana banaana) by way of either Portuguese or Spanish.

Avocado, yet another somehow berry, showed up in 1763—quite a specific year! It comes from the Spanish avocado, a version of aguacate, their word for avocado. That word is actually Aztec, from the word ahuakatl. That’s definitely the first time that language has showed up in one of my posts.

Seriously, berries. What the hell.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. So, most berries aren't berries but a banana is? My mind is blown...

  2. It's all arbitrary, anyway, the distinction between fruit and vegetables and all of that. Like the distinction between clouds and fog.
    Also, raspberries are just blackberries.

  3. Raspberries aren't a berry? That may traumatize me for life.

  4. Strawberries and raspberries aren't berries and bananas are? That's so weird...

  5. What, no boysenberries? Although, I already know the origin of that one. (They were named after someone named Boysen.)


Please validate me.