Hay, Berry! Berries On A Straw – “Stråbær»

 

A1A5D2B9-C55B-4224-9B29-004DC4AEA71ACan anyone help me? Why don’t English speaking people seem to know that the name “strawberry” comes from picking berries and threading them on a straw? (It actually doesn’t but is a very sound -and a bit dull- explanation to a Norwegian) Don’t you do this cherished activity in English speaking countries? I have now confirmed that it is usual at least in Scandinavia and in Slovakia.

What happened to me was that I embarrassed myself on a quiz on my allotment course being the only one raising my hand for alternative 1, when we were to vote on the origin of the word “strawberry”. The three alternatives were:

  1. A long, long time ago children used to put strawberries on a straw (I was sitting there thinking: We still do that in Norway… but didn’t say anything)
  2. “Straw” in strawberry is from “strew”, referring strawberries strewed/spread/dotted around the ground.
  3. Straw being laid on the fields around the strawberry plant to prevent fruit from rotting (here I cannot recall the exact explanation that was used in the quiz)

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I put my arm up, voting for alternative 1) 💡The others in the room laughing. I also giggled, somebody should vote for that one too…

The others voted quite equally on the two other alternatives, but leaving alternative 3) as the winner. Alternative 2) was the right one. Something you can read more about on this Oxford University Press Etymology Blogpost from 2015 ,  written by Anatoly Liberman.

In Norwegian culture “picking strawberries and threading them on a straw” is one of the most nostalgic things one can do. It is even described in national song treasures from famous authors and songwriters like Alf Prøysen’s “Vise for gærne jinter” – “Folksong for crazy girls”:

Vise for gærne jinter/Folksong for crazy girls

Oppå Lauvåsen veks det jordbær/At Lauvåsen the wild strawberries grow

fine jordbær/fine strawberries

raue jordbær/red strawberries

hele væra er bære jordbær,/and the whole  world is full of strawberries,

finn et strå/find a straw

og træ dom på…./and thread them on….

Alf Prøysen (1914-1970) , Norwegian artist, author and song writer

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I understand that there might be a big leap between this practice in maybe some northern countries and the origin of the English word “strawberry”. After all we call them earth berries (wild strawberries/woodland strawberries) in Norwegian. So strawberries don’t really make sense translated directly to “stråbær”, other than as a culturally sound and traditional practice where picking wild berries and putting them on the closely sounding and pronounced “strå” (straw) still is a cherished and possible activity, especially for children growing up.

This made me really excited! There is another problem though, a straw isn’t precisely what we in Norway call “strå”. Because the Norwegian “strå” would be defined as hay in English. Possibly another etymological search about the realtionship between the English “straw” and the Norwegian «strå».

Strike a pose! (hahahaha play on words again, in Norwegian, pose=bag)

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Norsk sammenfatning:

En av de store erfaringene ved å bo i utlandet er hvordan man forstår ting utifra der man kommer fra og kulturell referanseramme: På hagekurset jeg går på hadde vi en quiz – spørsmålet var hvor kommer opphavet til «strawberry», på norsk jordbær, fra?

Det engelske ordet er altså «stråbær». 💡

Alternativ 1) i riktig gamle dager plukket barna jordbær/”strawberries” og puttet dem på et strå (jeg har jo lyst til å fortelle at det gjør vi fremdeles i Norge,😅men holder munn).

Alternativ 2) fra gammelengelsk «straw»/”strew” betyr å kaste ut bær, de var bær spredt utover.

Alternativ 3) man pleide å legge strå under jordbærplantene slik at bærene ikke råtnet  (husker ikke helt forklaringen her).

Jeg stemte selvfølgelig på 1), mens de andre fordelte seg på 2) og 3). De lo åpenbart av alternativ 1), og jeg lo også, de kunne jo tro at jeg tulla litt og ville stemme på det ingen andre stemte på🤣🤣🤣.  For å korte ned denne lange epistelen…, jeg spør min engelskmann hjemme; plukker ikke barna her jordbær og putter på et strå- som i Prøysen sangen? Nei, han hadde aldri sett eller hatt noe forhold til det. Så altså, de på kurset trodde det var noen som hadde kommet opp med et morsomt ordspill «straw» og «berry» hahahaha🍓

Simply brilliant!

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