Friday, March 20, 2009

The Word Nerd Sez: K is for ...


Kiwi fruit, that is. Yum. I'm on a bit of a fruit kick lately, as I'm trying to improve my diet (reduce cholesterol, etc.) and also lose weight for the upcoming State AAU Taekwondo Tournament. (Lower weight class=less competition, plus it's always better to be the tallest in your class rather than the smallest.) Right now I'm munching on some pineapple and honeydew. Yum. But kiwi fruit is also very tasty, as well as very convenient. All you need is to cut off the top, take a spoon, and scoop out all the tasty tasty flesh. Kiwi fruit has lots of vitamin C, almost as much potassium as a banana, as well as antioxidants and fiber. All in a tasty 45-calorie capsule that tastes a little like pineapple, but not as tart or fibrous.

It's also not in my dictionary. I was browsing the "K" section, thinking about what to write for this entry. I noticed lots of African, Yiddish, and Greek words, as well as many more "kn-" words than I would have thought. (I recognized most of them; I just didn't think there were that many.) Then "kiwi" caught my eye, with two definitions. One: a flightless New Zealand bird, genus Apteryx. (That's a very cool name, and they have it all to themselves.) Two: a native/resident of New Zealand. Nothing about the fruit, or even a separate entry for kiwi fruit.

What gives? I've been eating kiwi for twenty years now. I looked in the front matter of my Webster's, and noticed two things. First, the name inscribed there was my maiden name, written in what looks like my mother's handwriting. I'm rapidly approaching the date (sometime this summer) when I will have been married longer than I was single, so you know that's quite some time ago. I checked the copyright page: (c) 1980. Ouch. I think I need a new dictionary. There's a big old stain (of unknown origin, and I don't want to know) on the back, and it doesn't even list kiwi fruit, let alone internet or cell phone or anything about our digital age. And don't tell me I can look words up online, I know I can, but that's not as fun as browsing the pages of the dictionary. (Didn't you read my first Word Nerd post?)

Maybe Webster's can be forgiven for not including kiwi fruit in my dictionary. After all, they weren't even called that until 1960, when New Zealand growers decided they needed a better name than Chinese gooseberry. The kiwi fruit is native to China, but isn't related to the gooseberry at all. It was a good marketing decision; over a million metric tons are grown each year. The world's largest exporter of kiwi? Not New Zealand, but a country which doesn't even have the letters "k" and "w" in their alphabet: Italy. Yum. Another reason to eat Italian!

1 comment:

  1. Mmm. Kiwi. Yes-- best very very cold scooped out with a spoon. Love any fruit that's supposed to be fuzzy.