Only in Cincinnati…

Okay, I hear this is a Midwestern thing (not just Cincinnati), but I swear I’ve only heard it here.  While tromping through Jungle Jim’s on Saturday (with a camera; apparently the Bonominis have given up and are allowing cameras inside– all the better, as it’s free promotion for them, right?) I spotted this sign:

I took a picture, very much confusing The Better Half.  “What’s so special about that sign?”

“Oh, ha ha, haven’t you heard locals call green peppers mangoes? That’s why they had to make the distinction– a fruit mango.”

Blank stare.

I think that this is more common with older folk, but my grandmother made “stuffed mangoes” (stuffed green bell peppers) for dinner fairly often.  I really dislike them.  My mother still calls green peppers “mangoes”– a little internet digging revealed that this is because the first mangoes (fruit) were transported from tropical regions as a pickle.  Eventually, it became a catch-all word for many pickled things: a mango– “a mango of cucumber”, “a mango of peaches”.  A very popular version was a green pepper stuffed with cabbage and pickled, so the word evolved to mean a pickled or unpickled green pepper (thanks to The Word Detective for that explanation).

So, transplants: have you heard this one before?  Natives, did your parents or grandparents use this term?  I’m very curious!

52 thoughts on “Only in Cincinnati…”

  • I have NEVER heard this before in my life. As a native Cincinnatian (and whose father was born and raised here) I am not sure where this came from. Curious to find out if my father (or his parents) used this phrase, I called him and he laughed and said ,”who the hell calls a pepper that?” LOL. His mother made stuffed peppers (never mangoes) .

  • I was born and raised in Cincinnati. They were always Green Peppers to me. (And I also grew up eating stuffed green peppers. Hated them as a kid, love them now.)

    I never heard them called mangoes until a few years ago.

  • I am a transplant and have never heard that before or since I moved here 8 years ago. Gotta say…doesn’t really help with the whole “sheltered mid-westerner” view many outsiders seem to have of the area.

  • I used to hear this all the time when I worked at LaRosa’s while in high school.
    The first time I heard it I was taking a phone order (This was before 347-1111) I said “I’m sorry, we don’t have mangoes” The caller said “Yes you do, I get them all time.”

    Finally after some back and forth, he said “Green peppers – I want green peppers.” I said I never heard them called that before, and he told me he’s always called them that. This was around 1984, and I had been only living here since 1981. But, in the 5 other states I’d lived in (NY, IN, WY, CO, and ND) they were always green peppers

  • As a native Cincinnatian with 2 parents as such I have never heard green peppers called mangoes NOR have I ever heard them called that in Seattle. I’ll check with my Iowian girlfriend to see if that part of the midwest has any feedback.

  • Yesssss….I too have heard this term used to describe the green pepper…..and the stuffed ones. I am not a fan of the stuffed green pepper either. Ugh. Seemed like it was a west side favorite.

  • OH Yes, we used this term religiously. In fact it wasn’t until my adolescence that I actually learned what a proper mango was. I had no idea! It’s weird right?

  • I have many family recipes that call for mangoes. When Laura was home looking at a meatball recipe, she asked me if I really put mangoes in them!!

  • Lived in Cincinnati for almost all of my 31 years and I’ve never heard anyone call a green pepper a mango. That’s crazy talk.

  • I am not a native Cincinnatian, but I am from Columbus…and we did call them mangoes. We also called pancake turners “Spatulas” and we called canteloupe “Muskmelon” or “Mushmelon” even though they are different types of melons.

    • My grandma called pancake turners “spatulas” too (although it seems like that’s acceptable, at least according to Williams Sonoma). And mushmelon was canteloupe.

  • Oh, yes, Julie. My mother, like your grandmother, made stuffed mangoes (green peppers) all the time when I was growing up. My father grew green peppers in his garden, and they were always in plentiful supply. I had no idea that they were actually called peppers (and that they came in other colors and flavors!) until I was in college.

  • My mom was born and rasied in Dayton and she called them that. She used the terms “green pepper” and “mango” interchangeably. I’m betting she got it from her mother who grew up in Xenia.

  • Till I moved to Calif in the 70’s I didn’t know what I was getting. My wife would send me to the store to get a “mango” and they gave me this fruit. I’d get home and she would ask me, fool what is this, and I would tell her that is what the guy gave me. I didn’t cook so I didn’t know what it was. So we went to the store and the grocer showed us what a green pepper was and what a mango was. That how I learned the difference.

  • been here forever and this is new to me. but i’ve never heard of sled-riding either.

    i’m a non-cincinnati cincinnatian

  • My grandma also made stuffed mangoes and they were one of my favorite meals! I knew they were green peppers, but I was still confused as to what to call them, especially once I started eating “real” mangoes after going to Jamaica. I think I may have even used the term “fruit mango” before.

  • There was a blip in the Enquirer about this not too long ago that my Mom cut out because her mother always called green peppers mangoes – apparently everyone in this part of the country did.

  • My mother and her mother called green peppers mangoes. When I moved to LA and was into my first week of work, my office mates ordered pizza for lunch. They asked what I wanted on the pizza and I said anything but mangoes. Through their puzzled looks, they explained what a mango is and did I mean a green pepper…ops!

  • I’m from eastern Illinois originally, and I remember some people calling green peppers mangoes while I was growing up. I don’t hear it any more, though, and rarely ever here in Indiana. You’d probably hear it more in the smaller towns and cities–not around Indianapolis. All of Indiana’s most interesting food traditions exist outside the Circle City.

  • grew up around Portsmouth – family there from KY & from WV – and they were mangoes until we started getting seeds to grow them 🙂 Seeing “green pepper” on the seed packet & in the mid-80s starting to see actual mango flavored foods (not mangoes!) – we changed over.

    As for the muskmelon (my father’s KY family said this) – Alton Brown taught us that cantaloupe is actually not grown in the US at all, not allowed for import…

    • I had to Google this mango vs. bell pepper thing today when it came up in conversation. I’m glad to know my parents were not crazy- it’s just part of their culture. They are from northern KY and the Portsmouth area as well. So funny to see so many people looking into this topic.

  • My grandmother always referred to green peppers as mangoes. And I vaguely remember hearing others use that term as well. My grandparents were from Rowan (pronounced like “round” without the d) County, Kentucky and were fairly simple folk..I always assumed the term was a part of their colloquial speech. I’m surprised to read how widespread the usage is!

  • I’ve lived here in Cincinnati about 10 years but I’m originally from the Louisville area. In my 36 years on this earth I have never heard a green pepper refered to as a “mango” till this post. Also where did this “pancake turner” thing come from? It’s a Spatula. Do you all own 40 different spatulas so that you have a fish turner, burger turner, egg turner, pancake turner, tater tot stirrer?

    On a side note, calling cantalope a Mush/muskmellon is actually correct. What we in the US call “cantalope” isn’t…it’s a mush/muskmellon. I’ve always wondered why we started calling them cantalope other than jealousy for the french, where real cantalope can be found.

  • I just saw the posts above about musk melons/mush melons. That was exactly what my dad and my rural east-central Illinois grandparents called them. I haven’t heard that either, though, since I moved from Illinois to Indiana. I guess there’s more similarities between Illinois and Ohio dialect than I thought!

  • My husband said called them “mangoes” after having Stuffed Peppers at Cafe Mediterranean. I actually made fun of him thinking he was just making something up. He made me google it to prove he was right. I was SHOCKED! And bummed – I had to admit I was wrong! That sucks! haha

  • I grew up in northern kentucky and could never figure out why my parents and grandparents called peppers mangos. Thanks for clearing this up

    • Muskmelon describes a type of round melon. All cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Your mother may have read the same gardening book (ordered from a column in the Enquirer)  that I had as a girl back in the 1960s which said that round melons, which we called cantaloupes, were more properly called muskmelons. Before I read that book, everybody called all kinds of round melons whether orange fleshed or green, smooth or netted, cantaloupes.

  • I always thought Cincinnatians called green peppers “Mangos” because of their appearance. Some German grocer who wasn’t too familiar with the English language looked up a picture of what he had  and mistook a green pepper for a mango. They look very similar. As a child, everyone I knew called green peppers “Mangos.” When Lifesavers came out with a mango flavored candy, I was really interested in trying it, then confused when it tasted fruity. Finally, in the late-1960’s we vacationed in Florida, and the grocery store across from our motel sold “Mangos” which were fruit. Suddenly everything was “crystal clear,” as President Nixon used to say.

  • I’m from southern Missouri and my grandparents still call green peppers “mangoes.” Glad to see I am not the only one!

  • Yes, my mother always called green peppers mangoes. I left the area years ago and quickly learned that a mango is a fruit and what I knew as a mango was acutlly a green pepper.

Leave a Reply