Southern Kazakhstan - Truly the "Father of Apples"
Good news for apple lovers, linguistics nerds, and other supporters of Kazakhstan: an international team of geneticists has traced the origin of all apples to the mountains of southern Kazakhstan.
The report, published in the journal Nature Genetics, reveals that a wild apple plant known as Malus sieversii gave birth to modern-day apples tens of millions of years ago. It also suggests that the same cataclysm that killed the dinosaurs some 60 million years ago triggered a genetic response in the apple that allowed it to survive. (You have to pay for the full article in Nature Genetics, but a bit more on the apple’s genetic fortitude can be found here.)
So why, you ask, should linguistics nerds be particularly excited about this news? Well, if you’ve ever been to Almaty, you know that the apple is a symbol of the city. During the Soviet era, the popular belief was also that its Russianized name, Alma-Ata, translates as “Father of apples,” from “alma” (apple) and “ata” (grandfather). The truth seems to be that the Kazakh “Almaty” simply means “apple-y” – as in the adjective form of “apple” – but either way, the fragrant fruit stays in the picture.
So now we know that the title is well deserved. Hail to the apple-y-est of all cities and one of the most resilient of all fruit!