A rather interesting linguistic phenomenon present for decades across the globe is the use of the terms ananas and pineapple. While other languages refer to the fruit as ananas or something similar, in English it is referred to as pineapple and in Spanish as piña. A research investigating the behaviour of the terms, using Google Translate as a tool, indicates that the word ananas is used in 42 languages, while piña or pineapple is used in 10, and there are four other different terms in four other different languages(Linguistics.stackexchange.com, 2016). The prevalence of ananas is illustrated as well on the map below.
The origins of those terms stem from the early 1600, when the European explorers of the Americas brought the fruit to Europe, using the word pineapple due to its resemblance to a pine cone from conifer trees. The diffusion of the tropical fruit however, did not go along with the transmission of the term, as it happened with tomatoes, avocados or bananas. One possible explanation could be the dominance of French (with ananas) in previous centuries (Linguistics.stackexchange.com, 2016), or that the other languages did not have another word to use, so they just stuck with ananas (Theweek.com, 2014). The etymology of the word ananas on the other hand, is the Tupi word nanas, meaning “excellent fruit”, and was recorded by André Thevet, a French Franciscan priest and explorer in 1555 (Mic, 2014). It is interesting to note that Christopher Columbus actually encountered the fruit during his voyages, naming it piña de Indes. However, this name didn’t catch on outside of Spain and the Philippines.
Nowadays, while European citizens are more interconnected than ever, with a plethora of exchange programmes bringing people in close interaction, languages are in a continuous contact. The mother tongue of each European citizen affects the everyday use of English in Europe to a certain degree. Thus, when a new term is used frequently by European citizens who speak English among each other, sometimes the official English term is forgotten. One could say that, in the context of Europe, a new variety of English has been formed, the “European English”, in which the term pineapple is replaced by the term ananas.
Written by Anna Manolaki
Study Visitor at TermCoord
Student in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication
Linguistics.stackexchange.com. (2016). Weird behavior of two fruits’ names (ananas/pineapple, banana/plátano). [online] Available at: http://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/690/weird-behavior-of-two-fruits-names-ananas-pineapple-banana-pl%C3%A1tano [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
Mic. (2014). Pretty Much Everyone Else in the World Calls This Fruit “Ananas”. [online] Available at: https://mic.com/articles/86229/pretty-much-everyone-else-in-the-world-calls-this-fruit-ananas#.1s48YeEw7 [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
Theweek.com. (2014). The curious linguistic history of pineapples and butterflies. [online] Available at: http://theweek.com/articles/445825/curious-linguistic-history-pineapples-butterflies [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
Quora. (2016). How did pineapple end up with the same word, ananas, in so many languages?. [online] Available at: https://www.quora.com/How-did-pineapple-end-up-with-the-same-word-ananas-in-so-many-languages [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].