I was looking up something else in Alan Davidson’s Penguin Companion to Food (see this post) when my eye was caught by an entry “Carissa and Karanda.” Both exotic-sounding words were unknown to me; the entry began:
two closely related fruits of which the former is indigenous to S. Africa and the latter to S. Asia. Carissa is a botanical as well as a common name, referring to the genus of thorny, fruiting shrubs to which both fruits belong.
It went on to say that carissa is also known as Natal plum and amantugula and is native to South Africa, while the karanda is cultivated in India and some parts of Southeast Asia and East Africa. Naturally, I wanted to know where the names came from; I wasn’t too surprised that neither was in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate or American Heritage, but I was surprised they weren’t in the Concise Oxford and astonished they weren’t in the OED. Fortunately, both are in the Third New International (score one for Merriam-Webster!); the entry for karanda sends the reader to their main entry, s.v. caraunda, where we learn that it’s Hindi, from Sanskrit karamardaka. Unfortunately, the etymology for carissa simply says NL (New Latin), but Google Books found Umberto Quattrocchi’s CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names, where I found:
In Sanskrit kryshina means dark blue or black, because of the ripe fruits; the shrub is called krishnaphala; in Malayam it is called karimulla, possibly from kari “dark, black” and mullu “thorny, thorns,” referring to the fruits and thorns […]
It’s not altogether clear what they’re suggesting about about the relation between the Sanskrit and Malayalam words or about how it came into English, but that’s all I’ve got.
Also, I regret to announce that the Forward‘s wonderful language columnist, Philologos, whom I’ve quoted more than once here, is calling it quits:
The person known as Philologos wished to remain anonymous to our readers, and through the years we have respected that request. Now we must respect another request — to retire from writing the column for the Forward.
So it is with sadness and a great deal of gratitude that we bid farewell to a valued member of the Forward family. The column that appears in this week’s edition will be the last. It’s been an epic run.
Pharewell, Phil (and thanks for the link, Paul)!