Kinkberry, frizzberry

Gooseberry is on the list of American imports that China might subject to retaliatory tarriffs (I think it’s the last one on line 66, or 08112000, of the product list published by the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce). The etymology of gooseberry is complicated and uncertain. It could be related to its Dutch counterpart, kruisbes, literally “crossberry.” However, the kruis – “cross” – in kruisbes, according to Dutch etymologists, seems to have evolved from kroes “curly, kinky, frizzy,” related in its turn to Latin crispus “curly.”

Incidentally, crossberry is a plant in its own right: the English name of a South African tree that is quite different from gooseberry. It’s called kruisbessie in Afrikaans, and its derivation from kruis “cross” is more or less obvious.

I’m not done with “crossberry” yet. The Russian word for gooseberry, kryzhovnik, sounds like a Polish loan, with kryzh- a Russian adaptation of Polish krzyż, cross. But Krzyżowniki is the name of two villages in Poland, one near Gdańsk and the other near Poznań; the latter was once known as Krzyżewnik. These villages may have been named after nearby monasteries; berries were not involved in the naming. Vasmer writes that Polish could have been the conduit to Russian from German, but the source word was not Krausbeere (akin to old Dutch kroesbes). Instead, Vasmer points out two terms for “gooseberry” in Upper German dialects: Krisdohre, “Christ’s thorn,” and Kristólbeere, its berry. This adds confusion to the genealogy because the Christ’s, or Jerusalem, thorn is a different plant, mediterranean rather than Central or Eastern European.

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