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.