I am more of a sweet potato girl than a white potato girl. When I researched the mashed-up history of these two tubers, I realized that this clearly had to do with my superior taste in life. According to Etymonline, the original sense of the word <potato> referred to what we now call a sweet potato. The sweet potato was introduced into Europe and North America before the plain white potato. The word <potato> for the sweet kind came from Spanish patata, which in turn came from Taino batata. (Let’s sing it! “You say patata, I say batata.”) The name “potato” was extended to the later introduced boring, white kind due to its likeness, not because it shared any botanical or geographical relationship. But, these white potatoes grew better in America and were cheaper. They were first referred to as Virginia potatoes, but due to their obvious inferiority to the sweet orange kind, they were nicknamed the “bastard potato.”
Despite my evolved palate, I won’t thumb my nose up at mashed white potatoes this Thanksgiving Day. Pass those tasty bastards down the table, please. And don’t forget the damn gravy! More importantly, add an <-es> to make it plural, and don’t let Dan Quayle convince you there is an <e> at the end of the word.
potato + es → potatoes
tomato + es → tomatoes
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