Thursday, February 16, 2006


I Am in Tomato

BigHominid muses on the difference between paradise and heaven. After reading his post, I was flipping idly through Stephen Graham's The Gentle Art of Tramping (New York: Appleton, 1926) and happened on this passage (p. 197) in a chapter entitled Foreigners:
An American lady wishing to ingratiate herself with some Germans said she felt as if in Paradise; but the word paradise in German means tomato, and her friends stared at her.
The only German dictionaries on my bookshelf (paperback Harrap's and Langenscheidt's) translate English tomato as German Tomate, and German Paradies as English paradise. I wondered if this story was as apocryphal as I am a jelly doughnut.

But an online English-German dictionary, s.v. tomato, includes the German equivalents Paradeiser {m} [österr.] (should be Paradieser) and Paradiesapfel {m} [veraltet]. So perhaps there is a germ of truth in Graham's story, especially if the American lady was speaking bad German to some Austrians.

Anyone who has eaten only the mealy monstrosities masquerading as tomatoes at the supermarket might well wonder how they ever got the name apples of Paradise. Apples of hell, rather. But a juicy tomato fresh from the vine in your garden -- now that is heavenly.

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