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Friday, August 12, 2011

Niagarum malum



In August, we in southern Ontario are spoiled by the plethora of peaches coming into season. There is nothing quite like biting into a peach from the Niagara peninsula, so juicy that one is advised to eat them over a sink!

Peaches were originally cultivated in China about 2000 BC. They migrated westward until they reached Greece in about 300 BC from Persia. Because of its perceived Persian origin, the Romans called the peach a “Persian apple” (persicum malum). In time this was shortened to persica, which the French subsequently squished down into persca, then pesca, and finally pêche, which is the word the English borrowed about Chaucer's time, before which there don't seem to have been peaches in England.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.