A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

more fun with citrus fruits

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 12, 2009

Thanks to Qifa Nabki‘s very helpful comments on my last post, the bulk of my follow-up post on citrus fruits has already been covered: that pomegranates are called “roman” (rumman) not because they were thought to come from Rome, but from a common Hebrew/Arabic/Aramaic root r/m/n. As a charming Austrian site called “Spice Pages” notes:

In many European languages, the weapon shell has names similar to granate or grenade. These derive from the same Latin word granum grain: The reference is to the many fragments resulting from the detonation of a shell. Remarkably, also in Hebrew the word rimon [רימון] may mean both pomegranate fruit and shell. The underlying Semitic root, RMN, means high, exalted and does not refer to grainy-ness.

(While doing some pre-QN research online, I also came across a sweet, pomegranate-centered post by an Israeli Arab, which you might also enjoy reading.)

Okay – so pomegranates are covered. But what H and I really went to town about was the word for “grapefruit”.

I don’t remember ever buying or ordering grapefruit in Lebanon – I’m just not that into citrus. And if I did, the only way I would be able to do so would be in French. “Pamplemousse” is the only word I know for “grapefruit”. So when H told me what he learned as the Arabic term – hamoud something – I had nothing to say.

Instead, I went back to my dictionary, which identifies “grapefruit” as “laymun hindi”, “laymun al-janna”, or the slightly giggle-able “krabe froot”.

The Indian lemon? The paradise lemon? I needed another opinion – so I asked A, who was busy doing some real work.

What would you say for “grapefruit” in Arabic? I asked.

I’d have to use French, A replied, sighing at my interruption. I’d say “griffon”.

What? I asked. “Griffon” isn’t the French word for “grapefruit”.

Hmm, A replied. You’re right. I think a griffon is a kind of dog.

I sighed. The griffon is a dog: a small, Belgian breed.

I think I have it now, A said a bit later. I could say “bomelo”, but its not exactly a grapefruit.

Pomelos do seem to be related to grapefruits: this site describes them as grapefruit’s “ancient ancestor”. I thought at first that this might be the fruit that used to grow in M’s courtyard in Damascus, but it was sour and had a much more puckered surface. The sites I found claim that grapefruit was created when early medieval “Arab traders” brought grapefruits to Spain, where they were bred with oranges – but I’d like to see some footnotes before wholly buying into this story.

In any case, if you are interested in grapefruit from a more professional standpoint, you might enjoy purchasing a copy of this report: “The World Market for Fresh or Dried Grapefruit: A 2009 Global Trade Perspective“. At 637 Euros a copy, its a bargain.


4 Responses to “more fun with citrus fruits”

  1. Qifa Nabki said

    I think the classical Arabic term for grapefruit is zunbuu`.

  2. […] more fun with citrus fruits […]

  3. As far as i know, “griffon” was a familiar word used to replace “grapefruit”, since that was a bit hard to pronounce for the majority of old time Lebanese who came across it for the first time.
    Most Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians (our closest neighbors) call it zinbuu’, or zunbuu’, while some mimic the Lebanese “griffon”
    Also if you are looking for a pomelo, its usually best if you ask for “bomali” or “boomali”

    I hope this has been helpful 😀

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