bramble/blackberry
Posted: 23 August 2011 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Both are names for the shrub “rubus villosus” and both have first citations of 1000AD.  Were they then used interchangeably or did they refer to different plants? And is it a class/age/whatever thing whether you call them blackberries (as I do) or brambles?  To me, a blackberry is something you eat, not something you speak into.

It’s getting on for autumn here in the UK and pots of jam are everywhere.  Daubs of sticky fruit are also everywhere in my house.

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Posted: 23 August 2011 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Like any common plant name, you can’t assume modern use is exactly the same as use in days gone by. The Dictionary of Old English defines brembel, the word that gives us the modern bramble, as:

bramble, briar; usually referring to the blackberry bush but also applicable to the rose, probably the dog-rose, or any thorny shrub

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Posted: 23 August 2011 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Like any common plant name, you can’t assume modern use is exactly the same as use in days gone by.

Or, for that matter, from place to place, which is why biologists use formal Latin taxonomy.

I had been under the apparently mistaken impression that “bramble” in the UK referred more often to raspberries than blackberries.  The term isn’t much used in the US, in my experience, except as a general term for thorny vines and bushes growing wild.

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Posted: 23 August 2011 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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In my limited anglo experience, “blackberry” was more usually used to refer to the fruit itself, whereas “bramble” is what one would sometimes call the bush itself. One didn’t go to pick brambles.

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Posted: 23 August 2011 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’m confused. OED terms the blackberry-bush rubus fruticosus, which is also the taxonomic classification used on Wikipedia for the common blackberry. No mention of rubus villosus in the wiki. But googling the latter term showers one with blackberries. Does one term subsume the other or are they variant names?

As to blackberry and bramble I’ve always used the former for the fruit and the latter for the bush.

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Posted: 23 August 2011 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I understand the distinction between the fruit and the plant (though in the UK I’ve seen “bramble jelly”, for instance) but to be clear, at least in my experience, nobody in the US would talk about planting brambles or tending their brambles; they would say “blackberry bushes”.

Edit: Aldi, Rubus villosus is the American blackberry, Rubus fruticosus the European blackberry, although I’m sure both species are cultivated (and have probably escaped from cultivation) on both sides of the pond.

[ Edited: 23 August 2011 10:34 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 23 August 2011 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The black variant of the rubus (Rubus fruticosus says Dutch Wikipedia) is called ‘braam’ in Dutch. There are older and dialectical forms like ‘brommel, bremel, etc. EWN calls these “presumably” diminutives of a common Germanic word for thorny bush. E.g. oe. brōm ‘broom’ [both the plant Cytisus and the cleaning tool] < pgm. *brēm- ‘thorny bush’ which can also be found in the Dutch name for the Cytisus: ‘brem’.

The pink variant of the rubus (Rubus idaeus according to Dutch Wikipedia) is called ‘framboos’ which, according to EWN, was borrowed from French, but is also from the same Germanic origin. It got the f- under the influence of Old French ‘fraie’ (strawberry, NFr fraise).

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Posted: 23 August 2011 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In my rural SE England childhood our family picked wild blackberries on a near-industrial scale every year; we knew every blackberry patch within a mile’s distance of our house individually, and could have told you which were the earliest-ripening / biggest / pippiest / best-flavoured; we actually gave some of the best bushes their own names.  But we never called the fruit, or anything made with the fruit, “brambles”. I was aware of the existence in shops of something called “bramble jelly”, and I assumed vaguely that it was one of that mysterious class of “shop words” (like lingerie, fragrance and hosiery) that retailers invented to make their goods sound posh but that one didn’t use in real life.

The name of the plant was a rather more nuanced question. If you were picking blackberries off it, or it was big enough that it was likely to be worth picking blackberries off in season, it was a blackberry bush. If it was just a few thorny stems overhanging a path where they could trip you up or whip back into your face,, it was a bramble.

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Posted: 23 August 2011 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Re the blackberry phone:

Yahoo answers:

RIM settled on the name “BlackBerry” only after weeks of work by Lexicon Branding Inc., the Sausalito, California-based firm that named Intel Corp.’s Pentium microprocessor and Apple’s PowerBook. One of the naming experts at Lexicon thought the miniature buttons on RIM’s product looked “like the tiny seeds in a strawberry,” Lexicon founder David Placek says. “A linguist at the firm thought straw was too slow sounding. Someone else suggested blackberry. RIM went for it."[9] Previously the device was called LeapFrog, alluding to the technology leaping over the current competition, and its placeholder name during brainstorm was the PocketLink.

Dutchtoo, they’re called “braam” in Afrikaans, too, and also occasionally “swartbessies” (blackberries).

I asked the question because I told some north eastern friends that I was picking blackberries, whereas they pick “brambles” to make “bramble jam”, not “blackberry jam” as I do.  I refer to the tangled mass of thorny bushes as brambles, the fruit as blackberries.  I’ve never heard of “blackberry jelly” - it’s always been “bramble jelly”. I would go brambling, not blackberrying.

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Posted: 24 August 2011 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It could well be a regional difference. My mother’s family were from London, Essex, Somerset and Cornwall (my father’s were from Vienna, Moravia and Hungary via Kenya, and thus irrelevant), and I don’t think I’ve ever gone blackberry-picking with anyone from the north-east. We had good friends from Lancashire, and they always said ‘ blackberry’.

The names of wild fruits are often highly regional, as in the case of Vaccinium myrtillus, which to my family, no doubt thanks to the West Country branch of her family, were whortleberries or ‘worts’, but which have several other names in Britain.

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Posted: 24 August 2011 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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ElizaD’s post stimulated me to read up on blackberries in Wikipedia, where I was utterly astounded to learn that there are more than 375 species of blackberry - and, most astonishing of all, that blackberries are actually intensively cultivated, in places as far apart as Oregon, Mexico, and Serbia!! I’d absolutely no idea. Shows how out of touch I am with the modern world. In my childhood in Chile, the country children living in the hills around the small town where I lived, used to bring baskets of wild blackberries to our front gate, where my mother would buy them to make jam (I can still taste it in memory - jam off a supermarket shelf just isn’t in the same league). Here in Israel, I have picked and eaten wild blackberries, alongside streams in the Jezreel Valley. The Spanish name for them was zarzamora - a word, according to RAE, with pre-Roman origins. Mora was the common mulberry.

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