Friday, June 10, 2016
GREEN PEPPER/MANGO MYSTERY
A sister of one of my sisters-in-law was living in Illinois and she began working in a greenhouse. She was mortified when, after using the the word "mango" to describe a green pepper plant, a customer guffawed; the owner took her aside to tell her that mangoes are actually tropical fruits. She had, of course, heard "mango" all of her life to describe a green pepper. Fortunately, for me, I never committed that faux pas because my mother told us early on not to adopt Granny's tortured pronunciations.
The following explanation is from The Word Detective:
THE GREAT MANGO GREEN PEPPER MYSTERY
The first mangoes imported into the American colonies were from the East Indies, and since this was long before either high speed transport or refrigeration, the mangoes arrived, not as fresh fruit, but in pickled form. This fact turns out to be the key to the mango green pepper mystery. At some point, early on, there was a popular misunderstanding of the word "mango" in America, and people began using :"mango" as a general synonym for any "pickled dish", no matter what the dish was made from.
Thus, in 1699, we find references in a cookbook to "a mango of cucumbers" and a "mango of walnuts". Pretty soon, almost anything that could be pickled was called a "mango". Apples, peaches, apricots, plums, and even bunches of grapes, once pickled, became "mangoes", usually in the form of "mango of peach", etc. "Mango" even became a verb in the 18th century, meaning "to pickle".
One of the most popular "mangoes" was created by stuffing bell peppers with spiced cabbage and pickling the whole shebang! Apparently, this concoction was so popular for so long that the green pepper became known as a "mango" and this is the usage that persists mostly in the American Midwest today.