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Food by VICE

PSA: The Word 'Avocado' Once Meant 'Ballsack'

Would you like some mashed testicles on your toast?

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jun 19 2018, 9:59pm

Photo via Flickr user slgckgc

When MUNCHIES spoke to the anonymous South American artist who has been spray-painting avocados all over New York City, he had a simple explanation why he chose that fruit as his signature symbol. “It resembles a vagina, which is the source of all things,” he said. “And it's my favorite food.”

It might look like a vagina—at least when he draws it—but the actual word ‘avocado’ comes from a euphemistic term for male genitalia. According to the Journal of Heredity, avocados were first domesticated in Mesoamerica, a region that stretched from what is now central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and human consumption of the fruit has been documented as early as 8,000 BC. (So bring it down a notch, early avocado toast adopters. This isn’t about you.)

The Nahua, an indigenous people of Mexico and El Salvador, called them ahuacatl, which means… avocado. But stick with us here, because we’re about to bring a ballsack into this. In 1571, Alonso de Molinas wrote a dictionary of the Nahuatl language, which defined the word as “ fruta conocida, o el compañon,” which translates to “known fruit, or the testicle.”

According to Nawatl Scholar, a site written by linguistic anthropologist Dr. Magnus Pharao Hansen, just because Molinas included ‘testicle’ in his definition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ahuacatl “[referred] to anything but avocados.” Hansen interprets it to mean that ahuacatl was a kind of slang term for testicle, not a synonym.

“It would appear that the anatomical meaning is a euphemism, based on a certain similarity of shape, the same kind of euphemism that we make use of when we refer to a penis as ‘a wiener’ or to testicles as ‘nuts,’ he writes. “We would however not generally consider it to be ‘partly correct’ to say that ‘wiener schnitzel’ kind of means ‘penis schnitzel’ or that ‘nutcase’ kind of means ‘testicle box.’” (Although we’re going to start using the phrase testicle box as often as we possibly can.)

How did we end up with the name avocado? Marketing, folks. By 1914, avocados were being commercially grown in the United States, and some hotels in California were paying $1 each—about $25 in today’s dollars—for a single fruit. NPR explains that farmers who produced avocados thought that Americans would be put off by the name ahuacatl and by its connection to testes, and they weren’t delighted about its alternate name, “alligator pear.” So they invented the word “avocado” and named themselves the California Avocado Association. (It’s now known as the California Avocado Society, and shouldn’t be confused with the California Avocado Commission, which was created in 1978.)

So avocados once had the same name as a slang term for testicles.. Regardless, never forget that the vagina is still the source of all things.