The Internet Asks: Why Is It Called ‘Grapefruit’ When There Are No Grapes?

The Internet Asks: Why Is It Called ‘Grapefruit’ When There Are No Grapes?
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In the internet age, the answer to most questions is just a web search away. Some queries, however, are too ponderous or inane to even be Bing-worthy. When all else fails, The Internet Asks responds.

Having apparently exhausted his Seinfeld DVD collection, CNN host Larry King turned to Twitter Sunday night to answer a question that has plagued philosophers for millennia: Why are grapefruit — which contain absolutely no grapes — called “grapefruit”?

The answer, it turns, out is simple. On the tree, grapefruit happen to look a lot like grapes.

The Internet Asks: Why Is It Called 'Grapefruit' When There Are No Grapes?

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explains the
Cyclopedia of American Horticulture,Grape-fruit

Even back then, however, at least one expert took issue with that answer. Here’s the editor of The American Botanist grousing back in 1902:

Another horticultural magazine gravely informs its readers that the grape-fruit (Citnis decumana) receives its common name from the fact that it grows ‘in grapose clusters.’ Everybody that has seen the grape-fruit growing knows that the fruits hang singly, like their near relatives the orange and lemon. ‘Grapose clusters’ savors strongly of facts manufactured to fit the explanation.

Before begrudgingly offering a semi-retraction:

Some time ago, the editor took occasion to criticise the statement made in a horticultural journal that the grape-fruit gets its name from being borne in “grapose clusters,” whereupon a subscriber wrote to say that a grape-fruit does grow in clusters, and that this point is the distinguishing point between a shaddock and a grape-fruit. We do not contend, however, that there never are several grape-fruits near each other on a branch, but that they do not grow in clusters like grapes.

For some people, it seems, no explanation is too obvious to contradict.