It’s finally starting to feel like summer; time for sipping fruit smoothies in the sunshine, generous factor 30-ing and complaining that it’s too hot. I, for one, have indulged in a spot of light European gallivanting this month, to Italy, Germany, back to the Netherlands and I’ll be moving to Oxford at the weekend. If you pick up anything from spending unhealthy amounts of time on the road, it’s the little oddities and discrepancies between languages that, geographically-speaking, aren’t so far apart.
One such curiosity is that quintessential summer fruit and obligatory piña colada ingredient: the pineapple. Looking at the map, it would appear that English missed a memo somewhere.
Of course, the pineapple is an exotic fruit and is indigenous to South America, originating from somewhere between southern Brazil and Paraguay. It spread across the continent and was cultivated by the Mayans and the Aztecs. When Columbus travelled to Guadaloupe in 1493, he came across the fruit and called it the piña de Indes, meaning ‘pineapple of the Indians’.
However, although Columbus brought the pineapple we recognise today back with him, the word pineapple was actually first recorded in 1398, some 100 years earlier. So had the fruit actually been in Britain all along?
Unsurprisingly, that’s not the case. This is a great example of how language change eventually makes the origins of many words opaque.
The word pineapple originally denoted the reproductive organs of conifer tress, what we call today pine cones. Except pine cone didn’t come into the language until the 1690s to replace pineapple. So when European explorers brought the fruit to Britain, everyone figured it looked pretty much like a pine cone and went on to name it as such.
The rest of the world, on the other hand, says ananas. This word stems from nanas, an indigenous Tupi term meaning ‘excellent fruit’.
I’ll leave you with this little joke that’s been popping up on the web:
– Sir, we’ve found this and we need you to name it.
– But we figured we might as well just call it ‘ananas’ since the majority of the world refers to it as-
– But sir-
– Pine. Apple.