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Spooky fruit

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April October 31, 2009 09:09 PM


Just in time for Halloween, a New Yorker story alerted me to the existence of an apple variety I'd never heard of. "Half-eaten apples lay on the ground, left by the Columbus Day pick-your-own crowds," wrote Lizzie Widdicombe. "Wickham pointed out new apple varieties -- Empire, Razor, Jonagold."

Paging Nancy Friedman! I like a tart, crisp apple myself, but who would name one the Razor, given the decades-old worries (justified and not) about treat-tampering evildoers?

A bit of Googling suggests that the apple is actually the Razor Russet, "discovered by the late W. Armstrong of the University of Kentucky as a limb mutation of Golden Delicious. Fruit is large, round, conical, and uniformly fawn-brown. Flavor is more intense than Golden, yet still sweet."

And oddly enough, it was introduced in 1970, around the dawn of the great Halloween poison-and-sabotage scares. Surely there's no connection, but in the absence of any other explanation, the name sounds a bit like a bad joke.

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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column The Word since 1997. E-mail her at

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