v19: jordgubbe

Swedish jordgubbe = strawberry. And interestingly, both words are different from the name for this (accessory) fruit in other Germanic languages, for example:

German: Erdbeere
Dutch: aardbei
Danish, Norwegian: jordbær

All these words refer to the Garden Strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa, the most commonly cultivated of the Fragaria species, which happens to be an octoploid (eight sets of seven chromosomes) species, and therefore apparently more robust and producing larger fruit. Another well-known strawberry in Sweden is the smultron, or Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca, which is a diploid (two sets of seven chromosomes) species.

Back to the words. The straw in strawberry may refer to the external seeds which cover the fruit. And jordgubbe = jord (earth; the two words have the same Germanic root) + gubbe (a Swedish dialect word meaning little lump).

The Swedish word sounds odd because the word gubbe commonly means old man, a word which Norstedts describes as having uncertain origin, but probably originally children’s talk for someone tjockt, klumpigt och böjt (stout, clumsy and bent)!

Another nice Swedish strawberry word is smultronställe = smultron + ställe (place), which means not just a good place to find wild strawberries, but in general, a favourite haunt.

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Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 15:28  Leave a Comment  
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