Saturday, January 30, 2010


Other demands on my time have made posting here rather spotty, but I have always tried to keep notes on possible posts for when some time appears. One of the 17th century sources cited for peanuts (with a small diversion on sharks) was Jean-Baptiste du Tertre. In the same work, Histoire generales des Antilles habitees par les Francais (1667), he has a chapter on “l'Ananas, le Roy des fruits” 'pineapple, the king of fruits'.

Having recently finished The Pineapple: King of Fruits by Fran Beauman, I was reminded of this and of an analogy:

orange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ ______

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orange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ pinery

Beauman's book is still in print, though I am not sure there is an American edition yet. It covers the history of pineapples from Christopher Columbus to James Drummond Dole. (Note how one of the Wikipedia editor's uses of ginaca machine isn't capitalized. Beauman only mentions the engineer by name, but it's used several times without even machine in Gary Y. Okihiro's Pineapple Culture, a book that uses pineapple as the common thread for the story of race and empire in the tropics and Hawaii in particular. That is, at least in an appropriate context, ginaca has become a common noun.)

Beauman's book surveys pineapples in English literature from John Locke's taste of a pineapple to Wallace Stevens' academic piece “Someone Puts a Pineapple Together” (snippet only). (Though a quotation from the Wake cataloguing Shem's lowly preference for canned foods is somewhat turned around by leaving out the botulism part.)

A major theme of the book is the role of pineapple in the emergent English (and to a lesser extent American) consumer culture. And the now mostly forgotten mania for growing pineapples in hothouses in Northern Europe.

Beauman wrote shorter pieces on the pineapple for Petits Propos Culinaires (73) before and Cabinet (Fruits) after. The former covered the associations from the start as the finest of fruit and possible causes (including the Golden Mean and Fibonacci series) and the latter the Dunmore Pineapple and aristocratic cultivation efforts.

Consequently, this post will more easily stay (mostly) to the main focus of this blog.

The word for 'pineapple' in most languages is something like ananas. This comes from the Tupi-Guarani name for the fruit, na´na, which I have seen glossed variously as 'fragrant' and 'excellent'. (Some sources, such as Skeat, also claim that nana is the plant and anana the fruit.)

The word is first reported by André Thevet, who writes (Singularitez de la France antarctique, 1558, pp. 89-90):

Le fruit duquel plus cõmunemẽt ils vſent en leurs maladies, eſt nommé Nana, gros comme vne moyenne citrouille, fait tout autour cõme vne pomme de pin, anſi que pourrez voir par la preſente figure. Ce fruit deuient iaune en maturité, lequel eſt merueilleuſement excellent, tant pour ſa douceur que ſaueur, autant amoureuſe que fin ſucre, & plus.

The fruit which they most commonly use for their illnesses is named nana, as big as a medium pumpkin, formed overall like a pinecone, as you can see from the present figure. This fruit turns yellow when ripe; it is marvelously excellent, as much for the sweetness as the taste, as lovely as fine sugar, and more so.

And in the form ananas by Jean de Léry's Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil:

… Premierement la plante qui produit le fruict nommé par les Sauuages Ananas eſt de figure ſemblable aux glaieuls, & encores, ayant les fueilles vn peu courbees & canelees tout alentour, plus aprochãtes de celles d'Aloes. Elle croiſt auſsi non ſeulement emmoncelee comme vn grand Chardon, mais auſsi ſon fruict:, qui eſt de la groſſeur d'vn moyen Melõ, & de façon comme les Pommes de Pin, ſans pendre ny pancher d'vn coſté ni d'autre, viẽt de la propre ſorte de nos Artichaux.

Ces Ananas au ſurplus, eſtans venus à leur maturité, ſont de couleur iaune azuré, & ont vne telle odeur de frarnboiſe, que non ſeulement en allant par les bois on les ſent de loin, mais auſſi quant à leur gouſt fondans en la bouche, & eſtans naturellement ſi doux qu'il ny a confitures de ce pays qui les ſurpaſſent, ie tiẽs que ceſt le plus excellẽt fruict de l'Amerique. … (1578 ed., p. 211)

… First, the plant that produces the fruit called by the savages ananas, has a form like that of a gladiolus, but with leaves slightly curved and hollowed all around, more like the aloe's. It grows compacted like a great thistle; its fruit, related to our artichoke, is as big as a medium-sized melon, and shaped like a pinecone, but does not hang or bend to one side or the other.

When these ananas have come to maturity, and are of an iridescent yellow, they have such a fragrance of raspberry that when you go through the woods [and other places where they grow], you can smell them from far off; and as for the taste, it melts in your mouth, and it is naturally so sweet that we have no jams that surpass them; I think it is the finest fruit in America. (Whatley, translating a slightly newer edition, such as this)

Interestingly, another Tupi-Guarani term for the fruit, ïu̯a-ka´ti 'fragrant fruit' (confirming de Léry's account), gives Portuguese abacaxi. (In Brazilian slang, both abacaxi and banana can mean 'mess; problem'.) Remarkably, though this word is presumed to date from the 18th century, it isn't found in print until 1833.

Other native names are given by Spanish explorer-conquerers (and Catholic missionaries). Oviedo gave some for Taíno in his Historia general y natural de las Indias:

Hay en esta Isla Española unos cardos, que cada uno dellos lleva una piña (ó mejor diçiendo alcarchopha), puesto que porque paresçe piña las llaman los cripstianos piñas, sin lo ser. Esta es una de las mas hermosas fructas que yo he visto en todo lo que del mundo he andado. … Dixe de suso que estas piñas son de diversos géneros y assí es verdad, en espeçial de tres maneras. A unas llaman yayama, á otras dic,en boniama; é á otras yayagua. (Lib. VII, Cap. xiv, pp. 280-283)

On this island of Hispaniola there are some thistles, each of which produces a pineapple (or, better said, an artichoke), because it looks like what Spaniards call a pinecone, yet without being one. This is one of the most beautiful fruits I have seen in all the world in which I have travelled. … I said above that these pineapples come in different species, and this is true, especially three kinds. Some are called yayama, others boniama, and others yayagua. (tr. Myers)

Francisco Hernández gives one for Nahuatl in his Plantas y Animales de la Nueva España (1615, here, then Ir a Imagen 345 de 429):

Esta peregrina planta, que los yndios llamã, matzatli, cuyo origen dizen ser del brasil, de adonde la traxeron, y de aqui se à communicado à las yslas, y aun à las yndias orientales, à donde le llaman, Ananas, y los Españoles que viuen en este nueuo mundo, Piña, por la semejança que este fruto tiene con las piñas, es vna planta que produze las ojas como las del lyrio, pero espinossa à modo de las del cardo, la rayz hebrossa y gruessa, la qual planta produze sola vna piña, rodeada de muchos pinpollos nacidos à la redonda y en la cumbre del dicho fruto, los quales quitados y sembrados cada vn pinpollo de por si, hechan luego muchas y nueuas rayzes, y nace otra piña en estremo, semejante à nuestras piñas como auemos dicho, rodeada de los mismos pinpollos, al principio sale la fruta bermeja, pero andando el tiempo quedando el pinpollo bermejeando, se pone la piña amarilla como rubia.

This wandering plant, which the Indians call matzatli, is said to originate from Brazil, from which they brought it, and from here it was spread to the island and even to the Eastern Indians, where they call it ananas; and the Spaniards who live in this New World call it piña, on account of the resemblance which this fruit has to pinecones; it is a plant which produces leaves like those of the lily, but spiny like those of a thistle; the roots are many-threaded and thick; each such plant produces a single pineapple, surrounded by many buds [suckers] born from around and on top of said fruit; when these are removed and each bud planted by itself, many new roots are formed, and another pineapple is born on the end, resembling our pinecones as I already said; it is surrounded by the same sort of buds; at first the fruit comes out red, the bud becoming reddish as time goes by, and then it gets as yellow as a blonde.

And his Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus gave one of the earliest illustrations of a pineapple (1651 edition here, Imagen 349 de 1083).

Achupalla is given for Aymara by Ludovico Bertonio Vocabulario de la lengua aymara (1612, p. 168) and for Quechua by Diego González Holguín's Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú llamada lengua Qquichua o del inca (1608, p. 6). These are downloadable as huge PDF files from here and here, respectively; the former is also in Google Books. (It also gives chulu as the name of the plant.)

As pineapples spread, they were occasionally named after other existing fruit that they resembled. For instance, in Hawaiian, it is hala kahiki 'foreign Pandanus'. (Note that while Tahiti is the canonical foreign place in Polynesian, there is no indication that Kahiki is meant to be a proper noun to claim is that they come from there. Also cf. ʻuala kahiki 'potato', literally 'foreign sweet potato', like 洋山芋 yang2 shan1yü4 or มันฝรั่ง man farang.) In Sumba, pineapple is (or was) known as panda djawa 'Pandanus from Java'.

In Persian, Urdu, and Arabic, 'pineapple' is normally انناس ananās or اناناس anānās. But the Ain-i-Akbari says, “Pineapples are also called Kat'hal i Safarí, or the jackfruits for travels, because young plants, put into a vessel, may be taken on travels, and will yield fruits.” (Blochmann's translation, p. 68. I have not been able to locate the Persian text online — this is the second part; so is this, just collated differently — or at an accessible library. The same site has a translation of the later Tuzk-i-Jahangiri, which also mentions pineapples at the Mughal court coming from Portuguese ports.) On the claimed etymology of کتهل سفری kaṭhal-i-safarī, Hobson-Jobson says (s.v. ananas):

Abul Faẓl, in the Āīn, mentions that the fruit was also called kaṭhal-i-safarī, or 'travel jack-fruit,' “because young plants put into a vessel may be taken on travels and will yield fruits.” This seems a nonsensical pretext for the name, especially as another American fruit, the Guava, is sometimes known in Bengal as the Safarīām, or 'travel mango.' It has been suggested by one of the present writers that these cases may present an uncommon use of the word safarī in the sense of 'foreign' or 'outlandish,' just as Clusius says of the pine-apple in India, “peregrinus est hic fructus,” and as we begin this article by speaking of the ananas as having 'travelled' from its home in S. America. … The lamented Prof. Blochmann, however, in a note on this suggestion, would not admit the possibility of the use of safarī for 'foreign.' He called attention to the possible analogy of the Ar. safarjal for 'quince.' …

Many other Asian names are likewise derived from ananas, including Tamil அன்னாசி aṉṉāci and Burmese နာနတ် nanat. And Sub-Saharan Africa: so, Burton's Lake Regions (p. 35 of the JRGS report):

The mánánázi or pine-apple grows luxuriantly as far as three marches from the coast. It is never cultivated, nor have its qualities as a fibrous plant been discovered.

The enthusiastic reviews by Europeans given above are typical and more like that are easy to find. For instance, here is du Tertre, as mentioned in the introduction to the post:

Ie peux à treſ-juſte titre appeller l'Ananas, le Roy des fruits, parce qu'il eſt le plus beau, & le meilleur de tous ceux qui ſont ſur la terre. C'eſt ſans doute pour cette raiſon, que le Roy des Roys luy a mis une couronne ſur la teſte, qui eſt comme une marque eſſentielle de ſa Royauté, puis qu'à la cheute du père, il produit un ieune Roy qui luy ſuccede en toutes ſes admirables qualitez : … (p. 127)

I can quite rightly call the Pineapple the King of fruits, because it is the most beautiful, and the best of all those which are on earth. It is no doubt for this reason that the King of Kings has placed a cron on its head, as an essential mark of its royalty; then at the fall of the father, it produces a young King who succeeds him in all his admirable qualities.

A mystery among all these early accolades is one claimed for de Léry (see above). It is repeated by ordinarily reliable sources, such as Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World and Food by Waverley Root. And in Collins' Pineapple and Beauman's PPC essay (but not her book). Here is the version from Lindley's The Treasury of Botany (p. 60):

Three hundred years ago it was described by Jean de Lery, a Huguenot priest, as being of such excellence that the gods might luxuriate upon it, and that it should only be gathered by the hand of a Venus.

Which seems to be the source used by Sturtevant at least. It is not inconceivable that a Huguenot priest would make such an allusion. (Venus is not usually a gardener, though she says through Ovid that she picked some “golden apples” — whether these are oranges or quinces is another topic — from her island of Cyprus for Hippomenes to use to distract Atalanta.) But there does not seem to be any such passage in his published work. At least I have not found it in any of the French editions of the Histoire or the Latin translation. Versions even show up in French works, often in guillemets, but apparently as translations from Lindley's English. Before that, it appears in Floriculture Magazine (1840), where it's Jean de Leary. And the remaining sources are the works of Charles McIntosh: Book of the Garden (1855), The Orchard (1839), The Practical Gardener (1828). The earliest even says, “in the inflated style of those early times,” which certainly suggests that he found the quotation in an older source. If it were before 1716, there might be some mention in Lochner's extensive Commentatio de Ananasa sive nuce Pinea indica Vulgo Pinas (online). And nothing similar is in EEBO or ECCO. So I do not know where it came from (and would welcome suggestions).

Of course, the three most popular languages in the world are exceptions to the ananas rule. English pineapple, modeled after Spanish piña, is due to the resemblance of the fruit to a pinecone. Originally, pineapple in fact meant 'pinecone', as pijnappel still does in Dutch. So, a contemporary translation of Linschoten can be:

Ananas, van die Canarijns Ananasa geheeten; van die Brasilianen Nana, ende van anderen in Hispaniola, Iaiama; van die Spaengiaerden in Brasyl, Pinas, om eenighe ghelijckenisse die dese vrucht heeft met die Pijnappel; (here, p. 212 – 269 from the menu)

Ananas by the Canarijns called Ananaſa, by the Braſilians Nana, and by others in Hiſpaniola Iaiama: by the Spaniards in Braſilia Pinas, becauſe of a certain reſemblance which the fruite hath with the Pine apple. (Iohn Huighen van Linschoten. his discours of voyages into ye Easte & West Indies, 1598, p. 90)

Which almost always warrants a footnote in modern editions in either language. Some dialects of Spanish have ananá and English did have ananas for a time. It's in Johnson's dictionary, with a quotation from James Thomson's Seasons:

Witneſs, thou beſt Anâna, thou the pride
Of vegetable life, beyond whate'er
The poets imag'd in the golden age: (685-687)

Pineapple is naturally included in the great herbals and plant lists of the period when scientific botany was emerging, which therefore propose various classifications:

  • Clusius: Exoticorum libri decem (1605), Cap. XLIV, pp. 284-285, “De Ananas.”
  • C. Bauhin, Pinax (1623), Lib. X, Sect. vi, p. 384, “Carduus Brasilianus foliis Aloës.” 'Brazilian thistle with aloe leaves'
  • J. Bauhin, Historiae plantarum universalis (1650), T. 3, Lib. xxv, pp. 94-95, “Nana sive Strobilus Peruvianus.” 'Nana or Peruvian cone'
  • Lobel, Icones Stirpium (1581), p. 375, “Aizoi maioris ortu persimilis exotica planta.” 'exotic plant similar to a descendent of a large sempervivum (aloe?)'
  • John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (1640), Vol. II, Chap. LXXXV, pp. 1626-1627, “Anana seu Pina.” He also adds a qualification to his praise:
    But this Pinas as I ſaid, ſurpaſſeth all other fruites of the Weſt Indies, for pleaſantneſſe and wholeſomeneſſe, ſo that many eate them abundantly, and thinke they cannot ſufficiently be ſatisfied with them, but the ſurfet of them is dangerous, even as it is uſuall of the beſt fruits :
  • Leonard Plukenet, Phytographia (1691), p. 29.
  • Hans Sloane, Catalogus Plantarum quae in Insula Jaimaica, p. 77-79.

Then, both books and pineapples were still relative rarities. But with the establishment of industrial printing and the progression of pineapple growing from mysterious failure to aristocratic folly to upper middle class hobby, the number of works giving detailed instructions for the construction of pineapple growing buildings and their use increased dramatically. And while these are now somewhat rare except for specialized booksellers and larger (and older) libraries, they are just the books that recent massive digitization efforts have done best on. Waves of improvements in transportation brought fresh imported pineapples, then canned, and fresh again. So this is mostly all forgotten, just like the words pinery and pine-stove. (Pine stove is a better search key than pinery, since the latter has several other meanings; for instance, the house in Germantown where Louisa May Alcott was born was called The Pinery on account of the trees surrounding it.)

Some examples (for books before 1906, there is this bibliography by Harold Hume of the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station):

The Wikipedia stub article on Pineapple pit, to which the Pinery disambiguation page points, looks to have been quickly thrown together from a single pamphlet. Some obvious potential improvements (I know, I could do it myself):

  • Add some synonyms, at least the ones that point to that page.
  • Pineries were originally developed in the Netherlands, not just the UK.
  • Most of the major developments were in Georgian times, not Victorian. In fact, the one that the article is based on is Georgian.
  • Many (though not this one, apparently) burn tanner's bark, not manure, or a mixture.
  • No mention is made Tim Smit, even though he already has a Wikipedia page and wrote a book on The Lost Gardens of Heligan giving the story of presenting the second modern pineapple grown there to the Queen.
  • There are a number of relevant books from the period online, Beauman's history of pineapples, and similar cultural histories of greenhouses.

And, of course, here is a cautionary note from the Dec. 29, 1787 number of a Thomas Monro's periodical Olla Podrida:

of Fathers who have beggared their Families to enjoy the Pleaſure of ſeeing Green-houſes and Pineries ariſe under their Inſpection;

Pineapples were grown in even more improbable places. Charles De Geer grew them on his Leufsta estate. Peter Ivanovich Shuvalov introduced them to fashionable parties in Russia and they were grown there by the time of Catherine the Great.

In his footnote to Eugene Onegin's ананасом золотым 'golden pineapple' (I. xvi.; the stanza inventories a luxurious dinner also including truffles and comet year wine — I think there was a bottle of comet brandy around here once), Nabokov supposes that, “everybody remembers the kindly lines in James Thomson's Summer (1727),” (see link above) and then quotes them anyway. He resumes, “of less repute is a short poem by William Cowper, The Pineapple and the Bee (1779)” (here), and then doesn't quote any of it, even though it's more perhaps more relevant, being concerned with whether some things should be reserved for those who are entitled to them. Beauman notes that despite this Cowper himself had a pinery. These kinds of decadent associations led to Mayakosky's slogan, “Ешь ананасы, рябчиков жуй, / день твой последний приходит, буржуй.” 'Eat your pineapples, chew your grouse; / Your last day is coming, bourgeois [louse].' Which in turn inspired Peter Sellars, while still a senior at Harvard, to include a giant pineapple in the A.R.T.'s first season production of The Inspector General. (I have not had any luck digging up a photo of that set; all their site has is this.)

The obsessive General Tilney in Northanger Abbey had a surprisingly productive (despite his fretting) pinery. The Bank Director in Dombey and Son had one too.

In praise of the pineapples raised by Otto von Münchhausen (see here), Leibniz wrote (Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain, Chap. IV, §. 11):

tous les voyageurs du monde ne nous auroient pû donner par leur relations ce que nous devons à un gentilhomme de ce pays, qui cultive avec ſucces des Ananas à trois lieues d' Hannovre preſque ſur le bord du Weſer & a trouvé le moyen de les multiplier en ſorte que nous les pourrons avoir peut-être un jour de notre crû auſſi copieuſement que les oranges de Portugal, quoiqu'il y auroit apparemment quelque déchet dans le goût.

all the travelers of the world would not have given us through their accounts what we owe to a gentleman of this country, who successfully grows pineapples three leagues from Hannover near the banks of the Weser and has found a means of multiplying them so that perhaps we shall have them one day of our own growth as abundantly as oranges from Portugal, though there will apparently be some loss in the taste.

In the meantime, pineapples had spread to tropical Asia, where they could grow naturally, and so were also becoming associated with the East.

In the chapter “Voltaire's Coconuts” in Ian Buruma's Anglomania (that title is used for the whole book in a UK edition; the proposal in the entry on Government is that one should try the English form, with its guaranteed liberties, everywhere, just as one should at least try to grow coconuts, native to India, in Bosnia and Serbia), the author relates that Voltaire tried to grow pineapples at Ferney. In the Philosophical Dictionary (that Wikipedia article badly needs some editing), s.v. Loix (Laws), Voltaire tells a story of some Jews of the time of Vespasian stranded on the island of Padrabranca in the Maldives (Pedra Branca is actually near Singapore). “… on y trouve les plus gros cocos & les meilleurs ananas du monde” 'there one finds the largest coconuts and the best pineapples in the world'. (Of course Voltaire probably knew that pineapples wouldn't have grown there back then. The story revolves around the refusal of a pious Essene to marry what might be the last Jewish women to preserve the race, on account of Mosaic Law; when the castaways move to a nearby populated island, where the law says that all strangers are automatically slaves, he refuses to believe there is such a law because it isn't in the Torah, but is made a slave anyway.)

In particular, pineapples became a common design element in Chinoiserie, as in the “Chinese” (or maybe “Indian”) garden pavilion in Veitshöchheim built for Prince Bishop Friedrich von Seinsheim by Ferdinand Dietz. (See Chinese Influence on European Garden Structures, pp. 183-184 and fig. 49. Its source hasn't been scanned that I can find. The other reference it gives is in JSTOR with a tiny photo. There is a Flickr photo but only in one size.) Or the several Beauvais Tapestries known as La Récolte des Ananas.

And, of course, this continues today. One can purchase reproductions of the tapestry and a decorating blogger was inspired by the Dunmore Pineapple to make her own interior-size folly.

In Chinese, 'pineapple' is 菠蘿 (simplified 菠萝) bo1luo2. Athanasius Kircher's China Illustrata (1667) says (p. 188; also in Gallica; the Stanford site appears to have rotted), “tanti & tam exquiſiti ſaporis, ut inter nobiliſſimos Indiæ ac Chinæ fructus primum facilè locum obtineat” 'such is the taste that the fruit easily holds first place among the nobles of India and China'. The baroque engraving on the facing page shows a farmer planting some while an ape eats one; only the first two characters of the name given there, Fam polo nie, are drawn in it. Kircher's source was the Polish Jesuit Michael Boym, whose Flora Sinensis (1656) has plates for 反波羅密 Fan•Po•Lo•Mie (fan1 bo1luo2mi4) 'pineapple' and 波羅密 Po•Lo•Mie (bo1luo2mi4) 'jackfruit' (I do not know how to deep link to that facsimile; the first is Plate G at position 34 and the second Plate L). That is, pineapple is 'foreign jackfruit' (like kaṭhal-i-safarī), more properly written with 番 fan1. As Bretschneider points out (Early European Researches into the Flora of China, p. 23), 波羅密 bo1luo2mi4 is apparently a transcription of Sanskrit पारमिता pāramitā 'transcendent; excellent'. That is certainly true in the Buddhist context, where the Six Perfections is 六波羅蜜 liu4 bo1luo2mi4. (It may be just a coincidence that a Tamil word for the jackfruit tree is பலா palā.) 菠蘿 bo1luo2 is today usually written with the grass radical 艸, just like 菠菜 bo1cai4 (covered here earlier). 菠萝蜜 bo1luo2mi4 is now written with the character 蜜 mi4 'honey', so that it appears to mean 'sweet pineapple'. I don't think I know enough to understand what this song (video starts right away) by a TV hostess from a couple years ago is about (if anything).

Another word for 'pineapple' is 鳳梨 feng4li2 'phoenix pear', I assume on account of its appearance.

My wife likes pineapple chunks for lunch, but I think most of the ones I eat are in Thai entrees. Thailand has been the world's largest producer of pineapples since 1975. I do not know the etymology of สับปะรด sapparot (I can only manage transparent ones and don't have access to an appropriate resource). They are mentioned there by Louis XIV's ambassador Simon de la Loubère, who was also a friend of Leibniz. The same work gave to Europe an Indian method of constructing odd-order magic squares; the rules for Chinese chess; and one of the earliest mentions of and translations from Pali. (The Google Books scan did not manage to get the alphabet table fold-outs; fortunately the Gallica one did.)

The common Vietnamese name for pineapple is trái thơm 'fragrant fruit' (like ïu̯aka´ti in Tupi) given in Flora Cochinchinensis (p. 237) as Tlái Thɔm.

If one of the current proposals for the addition of emoji to Unicode passes, the number of extra-linguistic one character foods will greatly increase, and in particular will then include pineapple.