Chinese Apples

Regionalisms, like regional foods, are everywhere. Even in our constantly connected and commercialized world, linguistic variations persist in communities around the country. There’s something heartening to me about the idea of the persistence of language idiosyncrasies in the face of so many leveling forces.

Last week, I learned a few new ones while visiting New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Speaking at the New York Public Library about my new book Apple: A Global History, a woman asked me why pomegranates are sometimes called “Chinese apples.” Beats me. I’d never heard that before! It turns out it’s a regionalism, fairly specific to the New York City/New Jersey area. It turns out the Chinese apple = pomegranate lobby even has a Facebook group devoted to it. Pomegranates are from Asia originally so that’s probably where the name originated, but that name didn’t seem to spread outside the northeast.

A few more, though, not necessarily food – or even apple – related:

  • What I call a roundabout or a traffic circle (perhaps I’m unsure myself) is a “rotary” in Massachusetts
  • Water fountains are supposedly “bubblers” in Massachusetts, just as they are in Wisconsin, though I never heard anyone reference this
  • Hero is a sandwich in New York City
  • A milkshake is a “cabinet” in Rhode Island and a frappe in Massachusetts (wish I’d had one but my desire to try things outmatches the number of meals in the day and room in my stomach)

What other food-related regionalisms do you know? Any other apple-related ones?



7 thoughts on “Chinese Apples

  1. Growing up in New Jersey, I never saw/heard of a caramel apple. We only had candied apples. They were hard and crackled when you bit into them. As a kid, it left my face messy and red, providing lots of photo ops for my dad when all the kids had the treat. When I moved to Wisconsin, I learned about caramel apples but rarely see a candied apple.

  2. I grew up in New York (1970s) and indeed, candied apples were much more common, though I did occasionally see caramel apples too, but maybe not till my teens. I’d much rather eat a caramel apple.

  3. Also, despite being a native New Yorker (and growing up a mile from Chinatown), I never heard the word Chinese Apple for pomegranate either. Though, as an Italian kid, I had a lot of hero sandwiches! What is called a sub has that soft bread (like Blimpie’s–did they have that sandwich chain in Seattle?). A hero has to be made on crusty Italian bread.

  4. Hi Erika: I think it’s only in Minnesota that fizzy soft drinks–aka soda to most of the US–are called pop. And then we have our iconic hotdish, otherwise known as casserole. Drinking fountains are bubblers only in eastern Wisconsin, I think; I’ve never heard the term on the western side of the state. I’ll ask around among the natives.

    I went to college in Connecticut, where the hero-sub-Dagwood sandwich was a grinder, not to be confused with a grind, which was used to designate someone who studied a lot, a good student. At Yale a grind (not grinder) was a squid, supposedly because the big glass windows in the library were reminiscent of an aquarium, and the diligent students observed therein looked like deep-sea creatures–which also brings the topic nicely back around to food; pass the calamari!

    As for apple terms, French of course has pomme d’amour for tomato, and pomme de terre for potato. In Chinese, potatoes are tu dou, earth beans.

    Cheers~ Brett

    • Hey Brett,
      I know the “pop” belt extends to Illinois, too, because that’s where my parents grew up and they always called it “pop.” It was pop in Seattle, too.

      Love the grind/grinder stuff.

  5. Pingback: A Christmas Orange | Erika Janik

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