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The true story of the name 'avocado'
Mar 24, 2023 | written by: Tommaso Ciuffoletti
Today, the avocado is known by that name all over the world. But the decision to call it that was not an easy one! We'll tell you how it happened.
It is 15 May 1915 and we are in Los Angeles, in one of the most elegant meeting rooms of the Alexandria Hotel. At that time it was a modern and glamorous hotel, with a charm that later made it the perfect set of famous films 7even and Spiderman 3 (even though it experienced periods of decadence and neglect).
But on that day, it hosted the first official meeting of avocado producers recorded in history.
Of all the food fads that come and go (remember Goji berries or Kopi Luwak coffee?) the avocado craze is one of the few that has long endured and continues to this day. At the beginning of the last century, this fruit had just begun to take its first steps into the world of organised trade and yet was already reaping success.
So the Californians involved in the commercial cultivation of the avocado got together to give themselves a set of common rules, starting with one that was essential for the marketing of each product: the name.
At the time, the avocado was known by various names. The most common was the term by which the indigenous Mexicans, in their Nahuatl language, called the fruit of that ancient and majestic tree: ahuacate. It therefore seemed opportune to the producers gathered at the Alexandria Hotel to go for the name that was already the most established.
But things were not going to be so easy.
Someone objected that for English-speaking consumers, the pronunciation of the name might have been difficult, but the objection that really stunned the audience came when someone pointed out that the word ahuacate was also used in the Nahuatl language to refer to ... yes, testicles.
The prospect of seeing the product of one's agricultural efforts associated with an anatomical part that was not exactly suited to boosting its appeal, immediately convinced the assembly to look for an alternative.
There were those who proposed a name which was also already quite common, 'alligator pear'. This name did indeed have a connection with the rind of the fruit, green and wrinkled like the skin of the alligator. But the objection of associating the name with an animal unsuitable for marketing purposes led to the suggestion being abandoned.
So at the end of the meeting, the name that seemed most appropriate was avocado, which like other Nahuatl names had been 'Spanishised' by the first European colonisers (this was also the case with coyotl which became coyote, or mizquitl which became mesquite).
No objections were raised and from that day on, the name of that fruit, now loved in many parts of the world, became avocado.
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