Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rasberr* (for Raspberr*)

My raspberries are off the bush in the backyard now, but raspberry was on the blackboard at the cafe where I ate my lunch yesterday. It was misspelled, however, which is a pretty common mistake, I think, given that the P is sort of "silent." But rather than rudely give the wait staff the old "Bronx cheer"—otherwise known as "blowing a raspberry"—I stayed silent as well, making a mental note to consider this one a candidate for "Typo of the Day." And, like the luscious fruit itself, it proved to be rather a good one! I found 75 examples in OhioLINK this morning, and 492 in WorldCat. (Although, considering that there are eleven surnames in NACO spelled Rasberry, many, if not most of those, are assuredly not typos; when personal names are excluded, the results go down to 25 and 221.) I also found myself curious as to the derivation of the phrase "blowing a raspberry" (or occasionally a "strawberry"). According to Wikipedia, this crude gesture, which basically involves sticking out your tongue and blowing, is known as a "raspberry, rasp, or razz" and was originally an instance of Cockney rhyming slang: "In this case, 'raspberry tart' rhymes with 'fart.' It was first recorded in 1890." Some people believe the term "raspberry" (or "strawberry") has more to do with the look of a partially protruding tongue, or even the red mark left on a baby's tummy (in a variant of this activity), but I wasn't able to verify that theory. The fruit itself is (possibly) called raspberry due to the "raspy" look of its stem.

(Two raspberries on a spoon, 2007, by Pierre Camateros, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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