or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Forbidden Fruit

Today I have a little mystery.

First, though, something amusing. As I noted last month, the French word for "pomegranate" is "grenade". After we returned from our week-long trip to Montréal and Ottawa this afternoon (trust me, you'll be hearing a lot more about that), we had to get some groceries, so, carless, we moseyed on over to the local Superstore, where I was completely arrested by this product:

President's Choice brand Diet Pomegranate soda. I wasn't going to buy it because they didn't have it in two-litre bottles, only twelve-packs of cans, and I just don't, at least not usually. But then, because New Brunswick is officially bilingual and you often see both the French and English sides of packages displayed on the shelf, I saw the French side of the box, which clearly reads Grenades Diète, and I understood that I have to have this product, because I am going to have Diet Grenades in my house come hell or high water. (Luckily, I do like the taste of pomegranates, and the pop is pretty tasty, though it does have that vaguely medicinal flavour it shares with black-cherry pop.)

I totally stole the above picture from a blog called JB's Warehouse and Curio Emporium*: he, or she, didn't like the product as much as I did.


Now, then. That mystery. At the same supermarket, we were picking up some fresh fruit (pineapples for me, bananas and Asian pears for Jim) when I noticed the persimmons, something I wouldn't ordinarily notice except that, again, I saw the French signage, which read


and a previous mystery was suddenly solved. "Kaki" is indeed the French word for "persimmon", and at the frame shop we have a mat--there are almost 450 different mat colours, each named--called "Khaki" which is clearly an oddball shade of orange and not the blackened yellow-green** we all think of as "khaki". We'd all noticed this oddity in the shop, but I'd never pursued it: some of the other mat colours have weird names, too, so I just figured it was another weirdness. But it isn't! "Diospyros khaki" is the scientific name for the Japanese persimmon!

However, this presents another mystery. The brownish-greenish colour we all know as khaki comes from Persian "khak", "dust"; the original khaki was more dust- or earth-coloured. So what can persimmons and dust have to do with one another? Wikipedia and the Word Mavens are entirely tight-lipped on the subject.

So we reverse-engineer the search and look for the various names for persimmons, and what do you know? "Kaki" is the Japanese word for "persimmon"! Mystery solved! Except for that mat: "khaki" and "kaki" are clearly not at all the same word: different languages of derivation, different meanings, different colours, different everything.

Two little mysteries remain (and I'm too travel-weary to do the work): first, why did the French decide to take the Japanese word for the fruit (we got "persimmon" from Algonquian), and second, why did the ArtCare folks name their persimmon-coloured mat "Khaki" and not "Kaki"?

*If you're JB and you want me to give it back and/or take my own picture, let me know and I will. But yours is perfect!

**Yeah, I know: it's really greenish-brown, right? But when you add black to yellow, it turns greenish and then, as you add more black, brownish, and in the colour-theory world of the frame shop, there isn't any such thing as "brown", because any colour can be turned into brown by adding its opposite or, judiciously, black. So I look at the standard not-persimmon colour of khaki and it's not brown, it's yellow-green. With black added. Just so you know.


Blogger Jamie said...

No worries about your use of the pic...besides, as you said, you liked it better than I did (but alas, they didn't have it in 2L bottles the day I picked it up either).

Monday, May 29, 2006 5:00:00 PM  

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