Re: "FreshFind: Sweet, juicy serviceberries not just for the birds" by Marlene Parrish in Food & Flavor, June 6:
I've been reading your PG writings forever, Marlene, and I just wanted to drop a quick note to share some information on serviceberries. I have a soft spot in my heart for them because my grandpap had a bush, and I used to love munching on them as a child. He was born in "aught three" on a small, backwoods farm near Farmington. He eventually settled in Coraopolis and planted a serviceberry to remind him of the woods he grew up in. However, he called them "sarvis berries", and that's the name I used. I eventually came to call them serviceberries and assumed that his name was a corruption.
Then I bought "A Natural History of Trees" (for a quarter), and, lo and behold, I find:
"... It is from the fruits that the Sarvissberry takes its name, for the word is a transformation of the sorbus given by the Romans to a related kind of fruit. Sarviss is a good Shakespearean English form of the most classic Latin, whereas Serviceberry is meaningless as a name, or is at least a genteel corruption of an older and more scholarly form."
So the old mountain man with a sixth-grade education was using the more correct name. I try to retrain myself to use the name Sarvissberry as an homage to grandpap, but I often forget and use the modern corruption.
TRACY A. MOORE
Send food feedback to email@example.com or mail to Food at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Find the story referred to above at post-gazette.com/food. First Published June 13, 2013 4:00 AM