Friday, June 10, 2022

"Johnny Appleseed: Proper Names and the Common Apple" by Christine De Vinne

ANS 2022, January 22, 2022 "Johnny Appleseed: Proper Names and the Common Apple" Christine De Vinne (Ursuline College, Cleveland, Ohio, USA) Grown commercially in 32 states, with an annual crop of over 11 billion pounds, the apple is one of the most popular fruits consumed in the US. Nutritious, easy to transport, and readily available, the apple is so widely sold that many of its varieties have become household words: Granny Smith, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, and more. This paper explores multiple ways in which proper names are associated with this common fruit. The apple’s scientific name, Malus domestica, points to the species Malus, which originated in Asia in wild form, now classified as Malus sieversii. Today the domestic species include close to 8,000 cultivars, each propagated from cuttings rather than unreliable pips. Modern US agriculture promotes particular varieties, which twenty-first century marketing highlights in advertisements and sells to the public at different price points, some related to crop production, others to taste, texture, and appearance. Among the human species, many orchardists and enthusiasts around the world have found their names interwoven with that of the fruit, including Australian midwife Maria Anne Smith, source of the Granny Smith, and nurseryman and Swedenborgian missionary John Chapman, better known in the US Midwest as Johnny Appleseed. Combining insights from the study of scientific names, commercial names, and anthroponyms, the paper discusses the naming history of the apple, humans whose names are associated with its cultivation, and some projections about the fate of curiously named heirloom apples in the face of decreasing bio-diversity. A 25-year member and past president of ANS, Christine De Vinne studies names in their literary and cultural contexts. As book review editor and member of the Editorial Board for Names: A Journal of Onomastics.

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