• raspberry •
ræz-ber-ri • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The prickly bushes of the genus Rubus (rose family). 2. The edible fruit (berries) of many species of this genus. 3. A gesture of derision made by placing the tongue between the lips and blowing, so that the lips and tongue vibrate.
Notes: Don't be fooled by the pronunciation of this word: it isn't spelled razzberry. If you overcome this natural tendency, the only grammatical point of any interest at all is the shift of Y to IE before the plural S: raspberries.
In Play: The French learned early on that the raspberry is the best berry to accompany chocolate: "Those chocolate raspberry martinis sure do hit the spot. I'll have another." The other type of raspberry is not so appealing: "When I asked her age, she replied by giving me a raspberry!" (She should be under ten for that response to be age appropriate.)
Word History: In the 1540s the berry was known as the raspis berry. It could be that raspis came from raspise, a sweet rose-colored wine. If so, this word would have come from Anglo-Latin vinum raspeys, of beclouded origins. In any event, Old French contained a word raspe from Medieval Latin raspecia "raspberry", which English borrowed and added berry to make the word clearer. The sense of "gesture of derision" comes from the late 19th century, and is shortening of raspberry tart, Cockney rhyming slang for fart, since the two sound so much alike. (Lest Kathleen McCune now of Sweden send me an e-raspberry, I should not like to forget thanking her for suggesting today's intriguing Good Word.)