dish of half the European gentlemen in that city. The name may be a corruption, we know not of what; or it may be given from the erect sharp spines of the dorsal fin. [The word is a corr. of the Malay (ikan) kakap, which Klinkert defines as a palatable sea-fish, Lates nobilis, the more common form being siyakap.] It is Lates calcarifer (Günther) of the group Percina, family Percidae, and grows to an immense size, sometimes to eight feet in length.

COCO, COCOA, COCOA-NUT, and (vulg.) COKER-NUT, s. The tree and nut Cocos nucifera, L.; a palm found in all tropical countries, and the only one common to the Old and New Worlds.

The etymology of this name is very obscure. Some conjectural origins are given in the passages quoted below. Ritter supposes, from a passage in Pigafetta’s Voyage of Magellan, which we cite, that the name may have been indigenous in the Ladrone Islands, to which that passage refers, and that it was first introduced into Europe by Magellan’s crew. On the other hand, the late Mr. C. W. Goodwin found in ancient Egyptian the word kuku used as “the name of the fruit of a palm 60 cubits high, which fruit contained water.” (Chabas, Mélanges Êgyptologiques, ii. 239.) It is hard, however, to conceive how this name should have survived, to reappear in Europe in the later Middle Ages, without being known in any intermediate literature.1

The more common etymology is that which is given by Barros, Garcia de Orta, Linschoten, &c., as from a Spanish word coco applied to a monkey’s or other grotesque face, with reference to the appearance of the base of the shell with its three holes. But after all may the term not have originated in the old Span. coca, ‘a shell’ (presumably Lat. concha), which we have also in French coque? properly an egg-shell, but used also for the shell of any nut. (See a remark under COPRAH.)

The Skt. narikila [narikera, narikela] has originated the Pers. nargil, which Cosmas grecizes into [Greek Text] argellion, [and H. nariyal].

Medieval writers generally (such as Marco Polo, Fr. Jordanus, &c.) call the fruit the Indian Nut, the name by which it was known to the Arabs (al jauz-al-Hindi). There is no evidence of its having been known to classical writers, nor are we aware of any Greek or Latin mention of it before Cosmas. But Brugsch, describing from the Egyptian wall-paintings of c. B.C. 1600, on the temple of Queen Hashop, representing the expeditions by sea which she sent to the Incense Land of Punt, says: “Men never seen before, the inhabitants of this divine land, showed themselves on the coast, not less astonished than the Egyptians. They lived on pile-buildings, in little dome-shaped huts, the entrance to which was effected by a ladder, under the shade of cocoa-palms laden with fruit, and splendid incense-trees, on whose boughs strange fowls rocked themselves, and at whose feet herds of cattle peacefully reposed.” (H. of Egypt, 2nd ed. i. 353; [Maspero, Struggle of the Nations, 248].)

c. A.D. 70.—“In ipsâ quidem Aethiopiâ fricatur haec, tanta est siccitas, et farinae modo spissatur in panem. Gignitur autem in frutice ramis cubitalibus, folio latiore, pomo rotundo majore quam mali amplitudine, coicas vocant.”—Pliny, xiii. § 9.

A.D. 545.—“Another tree is that which bears the Argell, i.e. the great Indian Nut.” —Cosmas, in Cathay, &c., clxxvi.

1292.—“The Indian Nuts are as big as melons, and in colour green, like gourds. Their leaves and branches are like those of the date-tree.”—John of Monte Corvino, in do., p. 213.

c. 1328.—“First of these is a certain tree called Nargil; which tree every month in the year sends out a beautiful frond like [that of] a [date-] palm tree, which frond or branch produces very large fruit, as big as a man’s head. … And both flowers and fruit are produced at the same time, beginning with the first month, and going up gradually to the twelfth. … The fruit is that which we call nuts of India.”— Friar Jordanus, 15 seq. The wonder of the coco-palm is so often noticed in this form by medieval writers, that doubtless in their minds they referred it to that “tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruit, and yielded her fruit every month” (Apocal. xxii. 2).

c. 1340.—“Le nargil, appelé autrement noix d’Inde, auquel on ne peut comparer aucun autre fruit, est vert et rempli d’huile.” —Shi habbuddin Dimishki, in Not. et Exts. xiii. 175.

c. 1350.—“Wonderful fruits there are, which we never see in these parts, such as the Nargil. Now the Nargil is the Indian Nut.”—John Marignolli, in Cathay, p. 352.

1498–99.—“And we who were nearest boarded the vessel, and found nothing in her but provisions and arms; and the provisions consisted of coquos and of four jars of certain cakes of palm-sugar, and there was nothing else but sand for ballast.”—Roteiro de Vasco da Gama, 94.

1510.—Varthema gives an excellent account of the tree; but he uses only the Malayai. name tenga. [Tam. tennai, ten, ‘south’ as it was supposed to have been brought from Ceylon.]

1516.—“These trees have clean smooth stems, without any branch, only a tuft of leaves at the top, amongst which grows a large fruit which they call tenga. … We call these fruits quoquos.” Barbosa, 154 (collating Portuguese of Lisbon Academy, p. 346).


  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission.
See our FAQ for more details.