After my long post on eggplant words, I was delighted to come across a similar post on taro over at qB’s Frizzy Logic. It starts with some linguistic discussion:

“What is this delicious vegetable?” I remember asking Dr B’s parents many years ago. I was sure I’d had it before, somewhere else. “Gollogassy” they chorused. Bappou (grandpa, aka Dr B’s father) told me how to grow it and warned of the care that has to be taken in preparation. Nobody knew an English translation. It was, I was told, a speciality of Cyprus.
I was pretty sure that whatever it was (sweet potato? no, not orange; yam? not quite; cassava? no, not the same) must also be an African and/or Caribbean staple since it was, apparently, freely available in Bristol which is not noted for its enormous Cypriot community.
The mystery remained unsolved until our trip to Cyprus. There I discovered that Cypriot Greek pronunciation differs from mainland or “standard” Greek (and also from the ancient Greek I endured for the minimum time possible at school). The letter kappa, for instance, sounds not like a k as in “kite” but roughly like the g in “gone”. So “gollogassy” is in fact “kolokasi”…

There’s plenty about Cypriot food and culture, as well as qB’s marvelous photographs.


  1. All four vegetarian restaurants in metropolitan Boston are at base Vietnamese (the Middle Eastern / Palestinian added chicken; the Chinese that come and go are presently all gone; South Indian have a hard time competing with Punjabi that just add South Indian dishes to the menu, although there are several in greater Boston and Lowell nearer the temples), with significant Chinese additions. (Think mock-X with Y, like at New York Chinatown’s marvelously named House of Vegetarian.)
    I think there are chunks of taro in some of the soups, although this is not called out explicitly. Even better is sliced taro shaped into a bowl, fried, and filled with veggies. I gather from this thread about cooking 芋頭 (wu6 tau4 / yu4 tou2) that this is an adaptation of the Cantonese 雀巢 (jeuk3 chaau4 / que4 chao2).
    Taro is khoai môn. khoai is part of the name of all kinds of edible tubers: taro, potato, sweet potato, yam. Bánh khoai môn is a sweet taro dessert. (A ‘cake’ — Bánh xèo is variously Vietnamese crepe or Vietnamese pizza — a rice flour tortilla colored with turmeric and filled with stuff.) Vdict tells me that không ra môn ra khoai
    means ‘ni chair ni poisson’; I believe it’s a pun, but my knowledge is so rudimentary I’m not sure.
    A Japanese word is 里芋 (satoimo). imo (= yu above) is in all the tuber words. Like when Iron Chef had a Buddhist monk, Sotetsu Fujī, for Battle Yam with nagaimo and ichiaimo.
    Dasheen, another English word for Colocasia esculenta, might come from de Chine, or maybe that’s just a folk etymology.

  2. Well, the OED just says “Origin uncertain,” but the excellent Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage says:
    [Prob. (chou) de Chine, creolized in Fr CarA islands. Cp. Chinese eddoe and also the name taro de Chine for same plant.]

Speak Your Mind