Les pluots de mes tantes

Image of pluot fruit"What's a plut?" she asked, the timbre of her voice a noticable combination of innocence and curiosity.

"A what?" I responded chuckling slightly, not entirely believing what my ears had just heard her ask.

"A ploot?" she repeated. "A ploo ut?" she attempted a second time after pausing briefly. "A plut." she finally conceded. "What's a plut?" she asked with pronunciation certainty, pointing to the object of her curiosity.

When the laughter finally subsided and I wiped the tears from my eyes, I decided I should examine the pluts which had obviously caught her attention.
The Costco retail chain, as a general rule, is not one I frequent with any degree of regularity. The sales model, which includes the requirement that consumers pay an up-front membership fee before they may actually purchase the retailer's wares, seems profoundly absurd to me. If Jimmy Swaggart were to adopt a similar marketting strategy for his Ministry we'd see his SonLife dirge, and a host of other such programming, quickly migrate from the airwaves to specialty channels. And the instant that happens Steve Jobs will be pimping the new iGod faster than a Quebec politician on graft. But I digress... this story's about Costco "pluts"... not marketting models.
Notwithstanding my conservative fiscal pragmatism, my significant other, upon promise of pumpkin pie, managed to convince me to set aside my principled view of the membership-driven sales model and accompany her to Costco. Rest assured my principles cannot be sacrificed for such a modest enticement; I held out for the pie, cheese curds and pickled herring. Making our way through the warehouse-style store, we eventually wound up in the food and produce section. I found myself focused on the substantial variety of baked good while my partner, her back towards me, was examining the produce. And so she began, "Jeff? What's a plut? I mean ploot, er, plew ought, er, a plut? They're pluts. What's a plut?"

A pluot, I would learn later that day thanks to Mr. Google, is a registered trademark of Zaiger's Genetics. It has also come to represent at least one name given to a hybrid fruit. Floyd Zaiger, who developed the hybrid cross between a plum and an apricot, coined the name pluot. It seems quite unlikely, however, that good old Floyd gave very much thought to the word pluot or what, if anything, it might sound like in another language for had that been the case me might well have chosen a different name.

The Quebecois use the slang term plotte which is, if my etymology is correct, derived from the French word pelotte meaning a ball of wool or yarn or a knot of hair. Les Habitants shortened it to p'lotte when referring to the hirsute nature of their women's genitalia. Today, the term plotte is, though derogatory, quite common in working class Quebec. As suggested to me by one acquaintance with whom I've discussed the phonetic similarity between the pluot and the plotte:

"I would bet ... that there was a Quebecois present when the company settled on the English term for their hybrid. 'C'est quoi une plotte en Anglais?'" If there's a cautionary tale to be told it's this: While the phrase "I like juicy pluots" might be quite acceptable in English, "J'aime les pluots juteux" might garner a somewhat different reaction when playing to the Quebecois crowd. But if Pierre Elliot Trudeau can say "Fuddle duddle" with impunity then surely I should be able to say "Les pluots de mes tantes" without fear of reprise.

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 28 September 2011