You say Potato, I say Tomato

My partner has pointed out an incongruity, or at least a curiosity, in how these two foods got named in various languages when they got introduced to Europe.

*English*	Potato		Tomato
*French*	**Pomme de terre**	Tomate
*Italian*	Patata		**Pomodoro**
*Spanish*	Patata		Tomate

*Aztec*			xitomatl
*Taino*	batata (for sweet potato or US yam) 
*Quechua*	papa (for ordinary or irish potato)

The incongruity she sees is that French is the outlier in the world of Potato nomenclature, whereas Italian is in the Tomato field. English being essentially a Germanic language vs the other three being Latin-based, she’d expect English to be the oddity, if any.

The Italian Pomodoro comes from** Pom d’oro **apple of gold, and the French Pomme de Terre means apple of the earth. Given the European proclivity for naming any new fruit as an apple of some type (pineapple, custard apple, love apple and so on) why did only Italian end up with that (apple-ate) origin for the tomato, and only French for the potato?

We realise of course there may not necessarily be a good explanation for this, just a “well that’s how it happened to happen”. Anyway thanks for any thoughts.

If those languages had diverged from one another after the introduction of tomatoes/potatoes, we might perhaps expect more consistency (then again, maybe not).

But each of those cultures (well, the European ones) experienced the introduction of tomatoes/potatoes separately - so (WAG alert) I guess they each individually went through the what-the-hell-shall-we-call-this? process, and they didn’t all conclude the same way.

We pretty much just call them “patates” in Quebec.

Je me… I’ll have to remember that.

In Polish tomato is pomidor, I’m fairly sure.

That’s exactly what happened when Hebrew was revived, and new words were needed for things that weren’t around in Biblical times. Potato: tapuach adamah = apple of the earth. If one needs to specify regular apples, they are called “tapuach etz” = apple of the tree.

This let to a funny scene once when I went over to the cook at my school in Israel to see what he was preparing for dinner. Translated to English, it went:
me: “Oh, great! Apples for dinner! I love apples!”
cook: “Not apples! Potatoes!”
me: “That’s what I said!”
cook: “No! Not tree apples! Ground apples!”
me: “What do I care what kind of apples? I just love apples!”
Of course I understood exactly what he was trying to say. But it was fun anyway.

None of the above proves that the Hebrew term came via French. There may have been other routes. I wonder what the Yiddish word for potato is. Anyone know what “potato” is in Yiddish?

Hmm… Google Translate says that potato is “kartoffel” in both Yiddish and German. Asking Google what the two words “kart offel” mean got me nowhere.

Very relevant to this discussion is that the English word “apple” used to be a generic word for “fruit”. For example, no one really knows the species of the fruit of The Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil, which Adam and Eve ate from in the Garden of Eden. It was said to be an “apple” NOT because it was known to be of that species, but because “apple” was a great word to use when you DON’T know which species it was.

The same seems to be true of other languages. For example, the fruit “orange” is called a “pomerantz” in Yiddish. To this armchair etymologist, that sure sounds a lot like “pomme orantz” – “orange apple”.

And let’s all not forget the pomegranate – “seeded apple”.

Same in France.

But here’s something interesting: I have an oldie cookbook, under pommes de terre you find potatoes recipes, and under patates, you find sweet potatoes recipes. (I’ve found it interesting because I had never encountered before “patate” referring solely to sweet potatoes, they’re called fully “patates douces” in France.)

It’s “kartoffel” in Danish as well, and according to Wikipedia (the Norwegian page on potatoes) the word comes from Italian tartufolo, meaning truffles, and is due to a hard of hearing pope tasting potatoes for the first time.

“Jordeple” (earth apple), or just “eple” is Norwegian dialect for potato, even if the rest of us sensibly just say potet.

Yiddish is also erdepel, obviously cognate with Dutch aardappel, meaning the same thing as pomme de terre.

I wondered if the “offel” in Kartoffel could conceivably derive from Apfel, but I tend to doubt it. I note that this word also appears in Romance (Rumanian cartof) and Slavic (Russian kartófel) languages.

This is deinitely the case in Hebrew – the orange is now almost universally called “Tapuz”, but this is a contraction of “Tapuach Zahav”, or “golden apple.”

There’s also the curious case of the Gin ‘n’ Tonic. :smiley:

I’ll fix this… <gets into time machine>

Why didn’t Aztecs have a word for potato?

In some languages, several synonymous expressions are used, often dependent on the local Dialect
e.g. In German, potatoes are “Kartoffeln”, derived from Tartuffi, truffle, but also called Erdapfel (Herdöpfel) oder Grundbirne (Grumbeer) , and Tomatoes are “Tomaten”, but also “Paradeiser” or “Paradiesapfel” in the variant of German spoken in Austria

It is. I assume the etymology is ultimately from Italian.

Of course, a fresh cut uncooked potato’s internal flesh looks very much like an apple’s - white. slightly watery and very firm. No surprise they would be called apples, even by the French.

I recall reading something that tomatoes were part of the dealdy nightshade family of berries; so they were grown decoratively for a while (the tinier sizes) in Europe before people clued in that they could be eaten safely (or trusted the guy who’d tell them - “go ahead, eat it, it won’t kill you”.

I had thought that for a long time, until I came across the pomegranate and pomerantz (and many thanks for Askance for pointing out the pineapple). That’s the danger of us folk etymologists.

Maybe because they didn’t grow them?

And in some Swedish dialects it’s “pära”, which is short for “jolpära” meaning “earth pear”, but the only context I have ever heard that word in is “jolpärstomp”, potato masher.

Not for nothing, but English is a Germanic language that got its ass kicked by Norman French to the point that nearly all of the “high powered” words are as latin-based as they are in romance languages with only the common words retaining their Germanic roots, especially in the culinary areas (e.g. we raise Germanic “sheep” but eat French “mutton”). So it’s not that surprising that a culinary word in English is more related to the Latin term than the German one.