It was once called the alligator pear… and now NPR took a look at how the avocado got its current name.
“The ahuacate, a pebbly-skinned, pear-shaped fruit, had been a staple food in Mexico, and Central and South America since 500 B.C. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors fell in love with the fruit after observing its prized status among the Aztecs.
Until the early 1900s, the ahuacate had never been grown commercially in the United States. By 1914, however, hotels in Los Angeles and San Francisco were ordering as many of the fruits as they could and paying as much as $12 for a dozen.
But the farmers faced a marketing problem. First, ahuacate was too hard for Americans to pronounce. Worse, it was the Aztec word for testicle, named for its shape and reputation as an aphrodisiac. Then there was the other unappealing name: “alligator pear.”
The farmers came up with a new name: avocado. They informed dictionary publishers of the change — and that the plural was spelled “avocados,” not “avocadoes” — and named their own group the California Avocado Association.
The approach worked. Today, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States.
When the farmers first met, E.J. Wilson, a Berkeley horticulturalist, predicted little interest from the American market. “It contain[s] no sugar and fruits are supposed to be sweet — the sweeter the better,” he wrote to a colleague.”