I’m either going to believe everything I read on the Internet—a dangerous proposition, if ever there was one—or I’m going to doubt the veracity of everything I hear, read, and/or see. Experience is the greatest teacher, and it has instructed me that the latter path is the most prudent.
I read that the humble orange, that citrus fruit that is also a Crayola color, was once known, in English, as a “norange.” The explanation for this seemed plausible. Oranges were from Southeast Asia, and when they arrived in Persia and Spain they were given the names “narang” and “naranja” respectively. This much is true. The ‘n’ was lost somewhere on the way to England, probably in France, where the fruit was known as “pomme d’orenge.”
The Internet suggested that the orange was originally called a “norange” in English, but lost the “n” due to the normal confusion caused by a word that begins with the consonant “n” and is preceded by the indefinite article “a.” The words “a norange” are misheard as “an orange.” This seemed plausible to me. Medieval words such as “a napperon,” “a nuncle,” and “a nadder” became “an apron,” “an uncle,” and “an adder” in this very manner. It happens the other way around as well. “Nickname” and “newt” were originally “an eke-name” and “an ewt.”
As plausible as this sounds, it is equally untrue.
The word “norange” has never been a part of the English language, thanks primarily to the French. But, it could have been…