Minimal pears

The morning name for Thursday was a linguist’s joke, the punning name minimal pear. In the morning, visions of sugar-pears danced in my head — cute little Seckel pears, specifically. Along with the linguists’ minimal pairs, like seat – sheet for /s/ vs. /š/ in English. (And, since there’s always someone who thinks of this when minimal pairs are mentioned: small testicles or breasts.)

From the Specialty Produce site:

(#1) From the Food Heaven site, “Plant-Based Monday: Seckel Pears”

Seckel pears are very small in size, averaging 2-5 centimeters in diameter and 5-8 centimeters in length, and are tear-drop shaped with a wide, round body that tapers to short neck and woody, brown-green stem. The bite-sized pears have smooth, thin, olive green skin and are covered in a glossy red blush that slightly darkens and becomes matte when ripe. The creamy, white to ivory flesh is dense, moist, and coarser than other pears and encases a central core with a few black-brown seeds. When ripe, Seckel pears are crisp, juicy, and possess the sweetest flavor profile of all the pear varieties.

… Seckel pears [are probably a fortuitous] cross of an Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, and a European pear, Pyrus communis … Also known as Sugar pears and Candy pears, Seckel pears are regarded as one of the only true American varieties commercially cultivated today.

So much for the minimal pears. On to the linguistics. From David Crystal’s An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Language and Languages, 1992:


Crystal has deftly side-stepped any number of complexities in the concept of minimal pair, while highlighting the intimate relationship between this concept and the notion of the phoneme. (Note that minimal pairs are from some specific variety of a language and serve as evidence for phonemic distinctions in that variety. Different varieties often have different phonemic distinctions, and even more so for different languages. There are languages in which the sounds [s] and [š] are not phonemically distinct — there are no minimal pairs — and languages in which the “light” l-sound of English leap and the “dark” l-sound of English peel are phonemically distinct — there are minimal pairs.)

Finally, bodypart pairs, which can come in various sizes. On this blog, in my 3/14/19 posting “Caribou with a pair”: balls, ballsy, and pair (of balls)

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