Tuesday, August 05, 2008


(Image from Wikipedia)

When I was five years old and staying with my maternal grandparents in their old Ozark home, my grandfather brought some pears from town and gave one to me. I ate it and told him that it was a very good apple. My grandfather -- whose family name "Perryman" implies that he would surely know -- corrected me:
"It's a pear."
Yet . . . it was once said that Adam, in his native innocence, saw into the essence of things and therefore correctly named all of the animals. Milton has the still innocent Eve name the plants (PL 11.277). In my childlike 'innocence', I knew that I was right, but I compromised and called the fruit a "pear-apple," and for the next several months whenever my grandfather went to town, I badgered him to get some more "pear-apples."

From some recent etymological work, I see that mine was not the first instance of compromise. In checking the Promptorium Parvulorum, a dictionary made in 1440 for speakers of Middle English to help them find the Latin terms for Middle English words (or so I assume, for the entries are given in Middle English), I found the following entry:
peere appul: pirumpomum, piri-pomi, neut. 2.
This entry "peere appul" is obviously the Middle English expression "pear apple" -- and the Latin "pirumpomum" just as obviously means the same thing.

What I don't know is how this expression originated. Was this a Middle English term translated back into Latin, or a Latin term translated into Middle English? If anyone knows, please comment.

By the way, here in Korea, we find the Pyrus pyrifolia, a pear that looks very much like an apple, so much so that it also bears the common name "apple pear":

Apple Pear
(Image from Wikipedia)

It also has other names, such as the apparently better-known "nashi pear." I say "apparently" because I'd never heard these called nashi pears, so I'm assuming that "nashi pear" is the British expression, for Wikipedia informs me that in India, this pear is called "nashipati."

But that presumably has nothing to do with the Middle English "peere appul" or the Latin "pirumpomum."

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At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, as I previously noted in our blog, a pomegranate is L. pomum, an apple, an granatum, grained {wrinkled apple?}, and you correctly showed that apple in olden times was a generic word for various fruit, you were technically a five year phenom, wise beyond your years, and correct in your terminology.
We bow before your wisdome.

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 7:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wisdome? Are you ridiculing my head?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "d" is to complete an(d);
Take the seemingly superflous "e"
and place it at wis{e}dom, and if you desire add another after dom,
thus we have 'wisedome,' if you preferre.
Far be it from me to ridicule a dear blog-brother, nephew.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I suspect something more like 'wizened dome'.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, since coming from a "wizened" uncle....

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were apples and pears both native to the world known during the time of the mentioned "translating dictionary?"

Nope Cran, I really don't know.


At 10:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, yes, both apples and pears have been known to the West for longer than the dictionaries.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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