Friday, January 26, 2018

Chile calls uses the wrong name for berries

Chile is a major agricultural producer for international markets. However, its domestic market for fruits typically sold to the international market is still relatively new. This means that Chileans are learning about fruits and vegetables being grown for other parts of the world, and most of these foods don't have much of a strong history in Chilean culture, and so people are pretty open to learning a series of sounds that they then associate with what that item is. However, the sounds used to describe these fruits and vegetables are often inconsistent with what other parts of the Spanish speaking world refer to the same item. Not only that, the words used in Chile are either do not make distinctions that are made in other languages or they are a word that literally describes a completely different plant.

Case in point: cranberries.

Cranberries are native to wetlands of North America. However, they are grown in Chile, too. But for the longest time, the word that was used in Chile for "cranberry" was "arándano," which is the word used for blueberry. What makes matters worse is that the Spanish-language Wikipedia page that links to cranberry is.... "Arándano rojo" (red blueberry).

Also: redcurrants.

Similarly, the word "arándano" was also used to describe redcurrants. This has recently changed, and now redcurrants are "zarzaparillas." Okay, so the name has changed to make them distinct from blueberries (which are still referred to as "arándano"), but this has entered into a different problem: "zarzaparillas" are an actual fruit that has next to no relationship with redcurrants (or currants of any kind). Let me explain. "Zarzaparilla" is the common smilax, which is found around the Mediterranean. It is a monocot evergreen climber that happens to have bunches of dark-red berries. In comparison, redcurrant is a deciduous shrub that also happens to have bunches of berries, but these are bright red and somewhat translucent.

In other words, there is nothing at all similar between smilax and redcurrant, except that they happen to have red berries. Even if the berries aren't at all the same kind of red.

But just how dissimilar could two red-berry plants be? Well, smilax is a monocot and redcurrant is a eudicot, which means that their common ancestor had to have existed prior to the monocot-dicot divergence.... which took place 140-150 million years ago. So the common ancestor of these two plants was at least this long ago. To put that in perspective, this was right around the end of the Jurassic period, which means dinosaurs: the last time these plants had a common ancestor was when dinosaurs were walking around.

Apparently, the word used in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world for redcurrants is "grosellas." So why doesn't Chile just use "grosella"? Because it's already used for describing blackcurrants.

Ah well.....

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