In a recent Blog, “The Dogs of The Canary islands,” I asked this question at the end: “What other incorrect perceptions have crept into English through the misunderstanding of the original language in which it was named? Such as “White Rhino” for instance, which isn’t white at all!”
Well not quite a misconception, but certainly a mispronunciation, is the English word Potato.
Was Looking at a South African (Swaziland actually) friend’s Face book page which had a picture of Batatas for sale in America.
Although I have lived in South Africa for many years and even visited Swaziland a handful of times I had never heard of Batata before. However on closer inspection I decided that they were in fact just one of the at least 3 different types of Sweet potato growing there.
So turning to my new latest friend, Wikipedia I read this: “Batata is the word for sweet potato (Latin: Ipomoea batatas) in many languages (e.g. Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and others), apparently from the Taíno batata.
Batata is the word for potato (Latin: Solanum tuberosum; only distantly related to sweet potato) in some languages, e.g. Portuguese, Marathi, some Arabic variants and others. The English word "potato" itself is derived from the Taíno batata.”
In another article, this time on Sweet Potatoes, Wikipedia also had this to say: “Although it is sometimes called a yam, the sweet potato is not in the yam family, nor is it closely related to the common potato. The first Europeans to taste sweet potatoes were members of Columbus' expedition in 1492. Later explorers found many varieties under an assortment of local names, but the name which stayed was the indigenous Taino name of batata. This name was later transmuted to the similar name for a different vegetable, the ordinary potato, causing confusion from which it never recovered. The first record of the name "sweet potato" is found in the Oxford English Dictionary of 1775.”
Being from Australasia, I was also interested to learn that 95% of Australia's production is an orange variety named Beauregard sold everywhere as sweet potato. A purple variety, Northern Star, is 4% of production and is sold as Kumara. Kumara is the variety most prevalent in New Zealand as a native Indigenous food acquired by the original Settlers of New Zealand, The Maori, sometime before arrival to the Country. Kumara is particularly popular as a Roasted food or in Contemporary cuisine, as Kumara Chips, usually served with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli sauce. Occasionally shops in Australasia will label the purple variety "purple sweet potato" to denote it's difference to the other varieties.”
Well now that I have told you all that, this was originally meant to be a short blog about the way Batata was mistranslated into Potato, even though not quite the same plants. Or as Wikipedia says: “The English word "potato" itself is derived from the Taíno “batata.” So, saying that finally, I will now say goodbye for now!