Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
"Scuppernong" is a word that may be common in the American South, but as far as I know, it really hasn't made it out west. I have found it several times in my current rereading of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I can deduce a little of what it means from a couple of sentences. Here they are:
"Finders were keepers unless title was proven. Plucking an occasional camellia, getting a squirt of hot milk from Miss Maudie Atkinson's cow on a summer day, helping ourselves to someone's scuppernongs was part of our ethical culture, but money was different."
"Our tacit treaty with Miss Maudie was that we could play on her lawn, eat her scuppernongs if we didn't jump on the arbor, and explore her vast back lot..."
Okay, the fairly obvious thing is that a scuppernong is some sort of fruit. My hunch is that it is fallen fruit, but I am not at all clear whether it is all fallen fruit or some particular kind of fruit, which gains a special name when it is fallen. Well, let's see if I have gotten this all completely wrong...
Well, I got the fruit part right, anyway. But that's about all I got right. Scuppernongs are grapes. They are a type of Muscadine grapes that grow in the southeastern U.S. They got their name because they were originally found along the Scuppernong River in North Carolina by the first European settlers of the area.
Here's a couple more things I found from this venture into the world of scuppernongs:
Those European settlers could not believe the amount of wild grapes they found in that coastal Carolinian region.
Scuppernongs, the grapes, quickly got new nicknames. "Big bubble", "suscadine", "sculpin", "bullets", which is slang for "bullis", and as it went further afield, "suppeydine" or "scuppydime". I must admit that I really like these variations.
Scuppernong, the river, gets its name from the Algonquian word "ascopo", which means "sweet bay tree".
The Mother Vine, which is of course a Scuppernong vine, contends in a pretty serious way for the title of oldest productive vine in the world. It's four hundred years old and lives on Roanoke island. Here's a little link to other possible contenders.
Roanoke Island, though? Isn't that where all those colonists disappeared? Yep, here's a little background on that.
Personally, I don't think the role of the Mother Vine in this disappearance has yet been adequately explored.