“Greengrocer”

From today’s New York Times:

Greengrocer is a really useful word. American English doesn’t have a good equivalent, possibly because up until recently we haven’t had that many greengrocers. The only alternative that comes to mind is “produce store,” which clearly isn’t very good.

However, it sounds inescapably pretentious–much like fishmonger. Perhaps that’s why the Times changed the word, in its online edition, to just plain “grocer.”

26 responses to ““Greengrocer”

  1. Then how about “produce grocer”? (I agree that greengrocer is a neat and useful word, but produce is always a subset of grocery store here, so it probably wouldn’t catch on unless more vendors of produce alone became available (we call them “Farmer’s Markets” in Iowa where they pop in a local park once a week during growing season).

  2. The objection I have with “grocer” is that the implied-associated item (“groceries”) is now just a pretentious word for “shopping”.

    • If in the US, as in the UK, the word ‘shopping’ is used to describe all the items you can purchase in a supermarket, then I must disagree. To me ‘groceries’ specifically singles out edible produce, it would not include other items such as washing detergents or household consumables that you also might find at the store.

  3. To me (a UK transplant), ‘fishmonger’ is anything *but* pretentious! I’m happy, though, to see greengrocer starting to be adopted.

  4. Michael Young

    A grocer sells a wide range of dry foodstuffs.
    A greengrocer sells green (and other coloured) seasonal vegetables.

  5. I keep being amazed at what one person or another finds “pretentious”. Grocer? Fishmonger? Really?
    But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised in today’s society, where many find even proper grammar to be pretentious. I actually wrote, “That’s I” on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday. Imagine how that appeared to her and her other readers…pretentious (if not just pain wrong), I’m sure.

  6. Michael Young

    … and fruit

  7. Mooch Blackmore

    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (note the British part?) has lots of greengrocers but perhaps it’s because of the large Canadian-Chinese population rather than the “British”. I live in London, Ontario, Canada. I don’t believe there’s even one greengrocer here in ‘London’.

  8. As a young Californian (int he ’60s and ’70s) I was very familiar with “Joe Carcione, the greengrocer” and the tv spots where he fondled the melons….

  9. Michael Young

    Perhaps the meaning intended through the use of the word ‘pretentious’ has changed over recent years, with the apparent need to dramatise conversation, e.g. OMG, Wow!, awesome, so it might be interesting to hear what others mean by ‘pretentious’.
    To me, as an older Brit, I would use the word as an adjective to describe a person who acts with an unjustified sense of self-importance or exaggerated belief in their level of knowledge or taste, “above themselves”.

    • As an older American, me, too. And the first page of definitions via Google would seem to agree. If there’s a more modern definition, it would appear to be obscure, since unlike definitions of previous ones I’ve searched, the first page hereto previously referred contained no “urban” definitions. Perhaps the word isn’t even in the urban vocabulary.

      • Michael Young

        Yes, perhaps that’s it, Hal, the ‘urban’ definition, fitting into the same category as ‘wicked’, ‘bad’, and ???

  10. I’ve always been partial to doing business with costermongers; costers are an important part of the diet.

  11. Why no mention of the famous ‘greengrocers’ apostrophe’? Examples: Apple’s 1/- a pound, Orange’s 1/6d a pound.

  12. Pretentious? Hardly. As a writer I find both these words useful and helpful. But I wonder who decides what’s mongered: as far as I can tell, it’s just fish, iron, cheese and whores.

  13. “Greengrocer” is commonly used in San Francisco–and not just these days. I heard it all the time growing up in the 1970s when the city was just another working class town.

  14. There are plenty of greengrocers in England but now very few grocers. Ironmongers are also becoming scarce, being replaced by “hardware” shops staffed by people who know very little about what they are selling.
    All chemists are becoming “pharmacies”, although they have not yet adopted the eppie-inducing displays of green neon that we see in France.

  15. This reminds me of the Goon Show. A BeebBeebCeeb Announcer is interviewing Willium:
    W. “yeah, when I went to Eton.”
    A. “so, you were at Eton, were you”
    W. I was delivering the groceries at the time…”
    A. “You were a greengrocer?”
    W. “Well, more of a dirty yellah…”

  16. Not forgetting the recent remake of Sweeney Todd.

    “Looks thicker, more like vicar?”
    “No, it has to be grocer- it’s green!”

  17. “Grocer” was used by the chattering classes as a demeaning term to describe the British P.M. Edward Heath, because he abolished Retail Price Maintenance. (Don’t ask).
    Ironically “Grocer’s Daughter” was used similarly for Heath’s nemesis Margaret Thatcher, whose father ran a corner shop in Grantham.

  18. Indeed it is. Heath was the Minister of Trade in 1964 when the Retail Prices Act was passed.

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