It's been said that I am making this up, this calling a green pepper a mango, but I swear, I'm not. However, when I encountered numerous individuals that gave me 'the look' whenever I mentioned this, I decided I'd better do some investigating about its origin.
What I found was this, on FoodReference.com's website:
GREEN PEPPERS AND MANGOS
The word ‘mango’ is used in some areas to refer to green peppers or stuffed green peppers. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri are all states that I have received e-mails about grandparents, parents and even current usage of ‘mango’ for green pepper.
Recent information I have come across (thanks in part to an e-mail from website visitor Richard Clark) I believe explains how and why the usage of the word spread along the path it did. Usage of 'mango' for green peppers seems to have originated with coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania (1870s +) - and spread with the mining industries, and then with the miners' families as they migrated to new areas and found new jobs.
But why the word 'mango' for green peppers? Many of these coal miners were of Eastern European origin, and it has been suggested that the word may have a Slovak origin. The English 'dialect' of the Appalachian region with its unique pronunciation, grammar, and word usage is due in large part to the immigration of miners, engineers and others from so many countries coming together in one area and being relatively isolated in the small mining towns. They came from Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Greece, Turkey, and Syria to name a few - so the word 'mango' might have been adapted from one of these languages.
From the American Dictionary of Regional English (Harvard University Press) as reported on the PBS website:
2 also mango pepper ... A pepper, esp a green pepper 1. chiefly W Midl See Map1948 WELS Suppl. VA, I was surprised while living in Virginia to see green peppers advertised and sold as " mangoes...The use of the term mango for bell pepper . . is not limited to Indiana. I have heard it used in Louisiana and Georgia. We once had an old English gardener up in Vermont many years ago, and he always called the green pepper a mango. ... 1972 NYT Article Letters cnIN, In my home area, green (bell) peppers are called mangos
And Wikipedia reports:
In many midwestern regions of the United States the Sweet Bell Pepper is commonly called a mango. With the modern advent of fresh tropical fruit importers exposing a wider latitude of individuals to the tropical fruit variety of the Mango, this definition is becoming archaic. However many menus still call a stuffed Bell Pepper a Mango.
My grandmother's family lived in Virginia for a time, in fact, she was born there and was named Virginia, so it might be thought that in our family, this calling a green pepper a mango came from their living in that region. But if you ask others that live here in our part of Ohio if they've ever heard a green pepper called a mango, nine times out of ten you'll hear, "Sure!" accompanied by a look that says, "Why on earth would you ask such a thing?"
It might be something that's dying out, however, because it does seem to be the older people that are familiar with this. My own daughters had to be informed of the green pepper/mango nomenclature, just as it had to be explained what an adding machine was. I'll never forget the day I used that term in front of them. I was nearly laughed right out of the car.
"Don't you mean a calculator, Mom?" Now, I know what a calculator is and I know what an adding machine is, and they are not the same. An adding machine has paper - a calculator does not. A printing calculator does, so that would make an adding machine akin to a printing calculator. Got it now, kids?
I love this linguistic stuff. I say we embrace our regionalism and generationalism, while at the same time being open to learning new (to us) words and terms that are used for the same things. That way, when you're in Wisconsin and you're thirsty, you can ask for directions to the nearest bubbler.
(That's 'drinking fountain' for some of the rest of us, in case you didn't know.)