August 11, 2004

Very good peppers

On the table in our house when we have a sandwich lunch is a jar of hot peppers we purchase at a Persian grocery in Cupertino. They are imported by a firm in Glendale, California, but they are produced in Turkey. The brand name is ZerGüt. I stare at it often. And this is what I am thinking. Is that just a Turkish company name? Or am I staring at the first German-Turkish pun I have ever understood? You see, the German for "very good" is "sehr gut". It sounds like "zair goot". But if I am not mistaken, if a word in Turkish with the root zer had a suffix of the form gut, the u in the suffix would be pronounced ü. (That's like the umlauted vowel in the first syllable of the German town name Tübingen.) So ZerGüt could be a Turkized pronunciation of the German phrase meaning "very good". You'd think a linguist would be able to tell whether such a hypothesis was right, wouldn't you? But I have no idea how to confirm it. I think only confirmation from the company itself would settle the matter.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 11, 2004 12:53 AM