“Pumpkin” is an American Indian word. You hear that a lot during the holidays. But it isn’t. It’s Greek. Did the ancient Greeks have pumpkins? No, pumpkins as we know them are a New World crop. However the Greeks they had melons and gourds, which is what the original root word, pepon, refers to. The Old French version of the same word is pompon, which sounds a bit more like the word we know.
How did an Old French word get applied to a New World food? The simple fact is that when pumpkins were introduced to Europe they were similar enough to European gourds that people used a familiar name to describe them. And let’s face it, “pompon” is a whole lot easier to pronounce than askutasquash, the original Narragansett word for pumpkin. It means “a thing that you eat raw.” Not terribly precise, but then the Europeans didn’t do much better, did they? Oh well, so long as it tastes good.