A Plum For The Great Pumpkinhead

It all started Sunday morning when Tynan commented on American corn as compared to English corn. After some editorialising on the subject, he asked why we call corn maize.


San Geraldo and I said maize was the Native American term for corn. Tynan countered that, in the UK, corn was just another word for grain.

We thought Tynan might be making it all up (he often does), so I googled it.

Sure enough, Tynan knew what he was talking about (he often does).

In British English, corn retains its old generic meaning of “grain” (i.e., barley-corn, pepper-corn). In American English, corn has come to mean specifically — well — corn. Of course, San Geraldo and I had different names for corn when we were growing up. My family (New York City) called it corn-on-the-cob. San Geraldo’s family (South Dakota) called that particular corn, sweet corn. They differentiated among sweet corn, field corn, corn for popping, and who knows what else.


Once we exhausted the topic, Elena commented, “Well, it’s all just corn!”

San Geraldo responded, “Well, here, one word covers thirty different vegetables.”

He went on, “What’s pumpkin in Spanish? Calabeza! What’s squash? Calabeza! What’s yellow squash? Yellow calabeza!

I began to laugh, while Elena looked perplexed, “What are you talking about?” she asked.

“Calabeza!” he replied. “You call pumpkin and every kind of squash the same thing!”

“Calabaza!” Elena laughed. “The word is calabaza!”

“Oh, wait,” said San Geraldo. “Calabeza is head!”

“Cabeza,” I laughed. “Cabeza is head!”

Tynan then brought up another subject and congratulated himself (he often does) on speaking with such aplomb.

I looked at Elena and San Geraldo. I knew what was coming.

Elena queried, “What? What are you on about now?”

I said, “He didn’t say ‘a plum,’ Elena. He said ‘aplomb.’ “

And then I turned to San Geraldo for the question I knew would still come.


Brow furrowed, San Geraldo looked across the table at me and asked, “What plum?!?”

And, given that the Christmas lights have now been lit here in Málaga, what could be more appropriate than this “Dance of the Sugar PLUM Fairy”?

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

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