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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

The great pumpkin

“Pumpkin” started out in ancient Greek as pepon (a large melon). Migrating through Latin and French, it ended up in English as "pumpion". Squashes are related to melons, and English settlers used the word to designate the big orange squash they found in America, adding the suffix “-kin”. The change is a bit mysterious, because this suffix usually implies something small. The very first recorded usage refers intriguingly to someone's “pumpkin-blasted brains”, while the second, from 1648, is about someone being sued for letting his pigs destroy his neighbours' pumpkin vines. Pumpkins and lawsuits: pillars of American culture.

1 comment:

  1. The standard word in Romanian for watermelon is "pepene". I would have never suspected a "Greek" connection in this case! -- Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.