Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Upside-down fruit

Do you know how pineapples grow?

Today I took to work a whole bunch of travel pamphlets in English that I've collected over the years, and had one class working out travel plans for themselves based on the information in the pamphlets. They had a ball, getting serious about organising trips that would include all the places they were interested in. After a while, one of the students called my attention to a very small photo in one of the pamphlets from Malaysia, of a pineapple plantation. Because the picture was so tiny it was hard to see anything much except a bunch of people carrying pineapples through some low-growing plants. The student asked me,

"Do pineapples grow on little bushes?"

I stopped and stared at her. "No, of course they don't!" I said. "What a funny idea! They grow on... um... let me see. They grow on... er..."

And then I realised I didn't have the foggiest idea how pineapples grew. The student showed me the wee picture, and I squinted at it and didn't learn anything. I apologised for my ignorance and told her I'd look it up later.

Back in the office at lunchtime I asked some other teachers, and they all reacted pretty much the way I did. "Oh, I know this one! They grow on, um... er... trees! No, bushes! No, trees! Yes, of course - pine trees! No wait... er..."

We discussed whether we'd ever heard of anybody being bonked on the head walking under a pineapple tree, and wondered why they were called pineapples. We decided that the answer to the first question was no, we couldn't remember hearing of such a thing, but perhaps they don't fall until they are squishy and harmless. To the second, we realised, after a moment's thought, that they're called pineapples because they look like pinecones, not because they grow on pine trees. That seemed pretty obvious. But after that we were stumped.

Finally it occurred to us to consult the secretary, whose computer is hooked up to the web. I looked up "pineapple plantation", and found this. "Eh?" I said when the picture appeared. I don't know how I thought pineapples grew, but that wasn't it.

I called the other teachers over and had the satisfaction of hearing them do it too. "Eh?" One added, "But it's standing on its head!"

Funny the things you learn when you're teaching language. Today I learned that pineapples grow upside-down.

Is this something everybody already knew except us? I mean, it was reassuring not to have all the others pointing and laughing at me and saying, "Didn't you know that? Are you stupid or something? Everybody knows that!" - but what if all the Wednesday teachers at that school are ignorant?

Did you know?


tinyhands said...

Upside-down? How do you figure? The leaves are on top, and it's connected to the rest of the plant (similar to Bromeliads) at the bottom, so it looks upright to me. Your students would see lots of pineapples in Hawaii, seeing as that's a popular destination for Japanese tourists.

Badaunt said...

None of us had seen them growing before, and in the supermarket they are displayed with the spiky end bits (where they're attached to the plant) at the top, so I guess you could say they are displayed upside-down.

I can only speculate that none of the people I asked had been to Hawaii. Or if they had, they'd avoided pineapple plantations.

B. Rabbit said...

By the way, bananas really grow upside down. No debate there.