Monday, November 30, 2015

A Plum For The Great Pumpkinhead

It all started Sunday morning when Tynan commented on American corn as compared to English corn. After some editorialising on the subject, he asked why we call corn maize.

THIS MONK PARAKEET FLEW IN TO LISTEN TO OUR CONVERSATION.

San Geraldo and I said maize was the Native American term for corn. Tynan countered that, in the UK, corn was just another word for grain.

We thought Tynan might be making it all up (he often does), so I googled it.

Sure enough, Tynan knew what he was talking about (he often does).

In British English, corn retains its old generic meaning of "grain" (i.e., barley-corn, pepper-corn). In American English, corn has come to mean specifically — well — corn. Of course, San Geraldo and I had different names for corn when we were growing up. My family (New York City) called it corn-on-the-cob. San Geraldo's family (South Dakota) called that particular corn, sweet corn. They differentiated among sweet corn, field corn, corn for popping, and who knows what else.

"AND THEY THINK WE CHATTER INCESSANTLY."

Once we exhausted the topic, Elena commented, "Well, it's all just corn!"

San Geraldo responded, "Well, here, one word covers thirty different vegetables."

He went on, "What's pumpkin in Spanish? Calabeza! What's squash? Calabeza! What's yellow squash? Yellow calabeza!"

I began to laugh, while Elena looked perplexed, "What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Calabeza!" he replied. "You call pumpkin and every kind of squash the same thing!"

"Calabaza!" Elena laughed. "The word is calabaza!"

"Oh, wait," said San Geraldo. "Calabeza is head!"

"Cabeza," I laughed. "Cabeza is head!"

Tynan then brought up another subject and congratulated himself (he often does) on speaking with such aplomb.



I looked at Elena and San Geraldo. I knew what was coming.

Elena queried, "What? What are you on about now?"

I said, "He didn't say 'a plum,' Elena. He said 'aplomb.' "

And then I turned to San Geraldo for the question I knew would still come.

WAIT FOR IT.... WAIT FOR IT...

Brow furrowed, San Geraldo looked across the table at me and asked, "What plum?!?"


And, given that the Christmas lights have now been lit here in Málaga, what could be more appropriate than this "Dance of the Sugar PLUM Fairy"?

24 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Bob:
      Naturally. Sometimes his wife picks up his check.

      Delete
  2. I recall an old children's Bible illustration that showed the grain in Pharaoh's dream -- See "Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- as stalks of maize/corn. I assume some American illustrator, reading an older version of the story that referred to the grain as corn, went with the familiar.

    When I grew up in East Texas, corn-on-the-cob referred to corn that had been cooked on the cob. Here in Wisconsin I see the sweet-corn/feed-corn distinction a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael:
      The grain in Pharaoh's dream? Don't you mean the grain in Pharaoh's pyramid?

      Delete
  3. I can hear the parrot now......."Oh boy, those humans!!" lol
    All sorts of corn here too, as in South Dakota, including cattle corn, and our favourite 'Peaches and Cream' (corn-on-the-cob).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim:
      The parakeet was doing an awful lot of chattering. I'm sure he was telling his friends about us. All I remember from my childhood is corn-on-the-cob, canned corn, baby corn, and -- most important of all -- candy corn!

      Delete
  4. I see. So the pyramids were built for storing corn, then?

    - and btw. - my choice is front left (Phwoarrrrrrr!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ray:
      Regarding your btw... I immediately knew what your choice would be. And, yes, the pyramids were built to store corn, gay is a choice because people go into prison straight and come out gay... and, if you ever meet up with Ben Carson and he has a knife in his hand, be sure to wear a really big belt buckle.

      Delete
  5. I only became aware of the British use of corn to mean basically any grain a few years ago. It still confuses me. How do the Brits distinguish between, say, barley and sweet corn? Just to muddle the waters even more - did you know that sweet corn is harvested and eaten when unripe and "green" whereas other grains are harvested and eaten after they are dried. Popcorn, field corn, etc are harvested after they are dry.

    I love the cabeza/calabaza confusion. Great post, written with a plum. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wilma:
      San Geraldo started explaining all about the different types of corn and when they're harvested, etc. Sounds an awful lot like cooking (sorry for swearing).

      Delete
  6. Y'all remind me of George Burns and Gracie Allen... say Goodnight Gracie ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Where does corny, as in a corny joke, come from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrew:
      One "origin" I found: At the beginning of the 20th century, seeds companies in America started sending out catalogues to the farmers to advertise their goods. To spice up the catalogues, they would sprinkle jokes and cartoons throughout the pages. The jokes on the pages were of low quality, and the catalogues started to be known as "corn catalogue jokes", wich was then shortened to "corny", and eventually applied to all humour considered embarrassingly unsophisticated.

      Delete
  8. San Geraldo makes a great straight man for comedy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen:
      The only time San Geraldo makes a great straight man, thankfully.

      Delete
  9. Re Wilma above: As a proud Euro-Brit it was also news to me that 'we' use the word corn as a generic term for grain. I rather thought it was the other way round. It is 'grain' that is the comprehensive word, not 'corn'. And barley we call barley and sweetcorn sweetcorn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ray:
      I should have been more careful in my description. It's like saying "we" in the States. Obviously, San Geraldo and I are both from the States and "we" use entirely different words for things (ignoring the fact that San Geraldo often has his OWN language). But I did find multiple references to corn in the UK as ​wheat, maize, ​oats, and ​barley (seeds that can be used to ​produce ​flour). And other references to corn as...well, corn.

      Delete
  10. Replies
    1. Judy:
      Too bad you're not teaching Spanish. San Geraldo (and I) could help! Oh, wait! You should HEAR San Geraldo's attempts at French!

      Delete
  11. Pentatonix is a marvelous group; they do a sensational job with the Sugar Plum Fairy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spo:
      I agree. I can listen to them forever.

      Delete

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