OnWords: Pumpkin

Oct 30, 2018

You can’t avoid the word “pumpkin” this time of year, even if you’re the sort of person who avoids pumpkin flavors or pumpkins themselves.

“Pumpkin” is a fun word. Roll it over your tongue a little.

With its luscious “u,” delicious “m,” and mouth-filling “p,” “pumpkin” contains almost the whole word “yum” and resembles the texture of a well-made pie.

As if anticipating the spices we often use to set off its rich flavor, the “kin” ending alights bright and lively on the mouth at each enunciation.

Even though the pumpkins we know are distinctly American, the word arose from a Greek term, pepon, meaning “large melon.” It then vined up through French over the years and was adopted by the English as “pompion,” eventually bearing fruit with the need to describe this large, orange thing encountered in the New World, then setting down roots into the word we know now.

The word “pumpkin” is certainly fittingly round: a robust term for a proud member of the squash family, with pumpkins known to grow to many hundreds of pounds under the care of loving farmers and state fair competitors all over the US.

Shortened and tightened into “punkin’,” the word becomes a term of endearment, connoting admiration for a cherubic and innocent sort of beauty.

So even if you’re not a fan of the pumpkin itself, you can still partake in the nation’s autumnal craze by savoring the word as you say it.