Name our Papaya Plushie!

As some of you may have seen on Twitter and Facebook, a new round of draft Frank N. Foode™ and Papaya Plushies has come out. While Frank is almost ready to go, we have finished the design process for our new papaya plushie! Soon, I will have the design samples in my hands to look at before we place our order, but in the meantime I would like to tell you what our plan is for our papaya character, and we would like your help with coming up with a good name for it!

Without any further ado, here is our new papaya plushie design!

papaya-final-4-web papaya-final-3-web

papaya-final-2-web Papaya-final-1-web

Note the color gradient taken from real papayas, the realistic plump design, papaya leaves, flower, and freckles just like our artist Celestia drew for us! Since the draft image went out on social media, we’ve heard back from readers, kickstarter backers, papaya farmers, and people who at first passed on the papaya who are rapidly changing their minds! This papaya, like Frank, will be more than just a plushie – it will have a character and a story of its own to tell.

Papaya Character

Recall that during our Kickstarter we asked you to vote on the second plushie, and you overwhelmingly chose the papaya. A well-established early success story for genetically engineered crops, it recently descended back into controversy in the state of Hawai’i in the current anti-biotech political climate with county bills 2491 and 113. Right now, there are groups, funded from out-of-state, that realize that Hawai’i is important for the development of genetically engineered crops elsewhere due to the year-round growing season, and are trying to claim that GMOs have no local benefits (or any at all for that matter). It struck me as odd that this is the argument, when they have such an excellent local example – the genetically engineered Hawai’ian Sunup and Rainbow papayas! Consequently, these groups are engaging in historical revisionism of the papaya story to lead people away from the facts that conflict with their narrative. Clearly, the papaya needs help telling its story.

Given the political climate in Hawai’i and its importance in the debate, we need to have a better handle on the news in Hawai’i. Last year, we had no idea that all of this was going on, and that’s something we’ve got to change for everyone. So we will be setting up a twitter account for our new papaya character where we will put news and updates specific to Hawai’i, along with a little general interest information that everyone should know about.

Now I know that the political climate in this field has gotten harsh and in-your-face. I know this from hearing about it, seeing videos online, and being there myself. Last year when I was on Kaua’i a local activist was in my face trying to physically intimidate me – even though his fellow activists had encouraged us to meet and talk so I could hear his story (which, ironically, was not about GMOs at all). That is a story for another day, though. I have seen people I have met on either side, who might otherwise be cordial, happy, and living a laid-back tropical life get stressed, frustrated, and become outraged. If you know anything about Hawai’ian culture, you know that it is a place of aloha where people of all backgrounds and opinions can be friends. Where pointing at someone, even to gesture who you are speaking to in a debate, is an attack. The rhetoric in this political debate has left the aloha out of it. We need a symbol of aloha to bring the cordiality back to this debate, to be friendly to everyone, and turn that negative energy into a positive force for education. That’s what we’re hoping to do with our Papaya.

Let’s get out of the politics for the moment and talk about education. Every plant has a unique story to tell, something we hope to capture with each of our Plant Plushies™ as we produce them. Each will be made as true-to-plant as we can, using leaves, stems, flowers, roots and fruits whereas other plushies will cheat and add arms where they don’t belong. This will help our main goal of education, and by being biologically accurate while also being cute and fun, we can also educate people about interesting aspects of these plants that they never thought about before. What does a papaya leaf look like, or a flower? Well, our papaya plushie will help them to see for themselves. There is another really interesting aspect to papayas (and plants in general) that we would love for people to learn about: plant sex.

Papayas do it differently

papaya-sex

(a) Female, (b) Hermaphrodite, (c) Male, (d) Fruiting Male. From Biology of the Papaya Plant, V.M. Jimenez et al. 2014

We know that plants are different from animals when it comes to reproduction. Animals tend to be only male or female, while plants tend to be both. Some plant species will have separate male and female plants, while others will have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Corn is like this – and although our friend Frank N. Foode™ is an obviously male character, being an ear of corn he is actually derived from the female part of the plant! (He’s in touch with his feminine side.) Papayas, however, have female plants (a), hermaphroditic plants (b), male plants (c), and even, fruiting male plants that produce pollen and little funny-looking fruits (d)! Very few people have asked us whether our new papaya character will be a male or a female, but when you take a close look at the face it doesn’t seem that obvious. Why not neither, and all of the above? What we’re thinking is to have our papaya character be ambiguous to highlight the interesting diversity of plant forms. I know it will confuse some people out there, but I think we have a unique educational opportunity here – plus I can’t see this character clearly fitting into either gendered category without more changes. If you want your own plushie to be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ or a ‘herm’ or a- I have no idea what pronoun to use for a fruiting male plant – let’s just say ‘they’, it can be whatever you want! We’ll just keep the official character neutral and won’t make a big deal out of it. What do you think?

Name our Papaya!

Now you know a little bit more about this fun, new character, and the difficult task ahead of us is to give it a proper name. It should be a Hawai’ian name, one that captures the spirit of Aloha and kindness that we wish to express, and we’re looking for your ideas. If it comes down to a couple good names, we’ll put it to a vote. Here are some names that have already been suggested, along with their english meanings. Do you like any of these?

  • Ānuenue: Rainbow
  • Pomaika’i: Good Luck
  • Pono: Righteousness (Has been used for a papaya plushie before by Dole, which might present a challenge for permission and identity.)
  • Aloha: So many meanings!
  • Mahalo: Thank you
  • Hau’olu: Happy
  • Pala: Ripe
  • Kekoa: Courageous

Suggest some more, and let’s name our papaya plushie!

(Don’t worry, Frank is almost here, too!)

frank-near-final

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He currently works as a public research geneticist in Madison, WI. His favorite produce might just be squash.

Posted in Commentary, Updates Tagged with: , , , , , ,
14 comments on “Name our Papaya Plushie!
  1. Eric Bjerregaard says:

    How about France[I]s Marion, The swamp fox of revolutionary fame. Both names can be used by either gender.

  2. @FarmGirlJen says:

    I suggest Kamiya first choice and Mahalo second choice. :)

  3. Dan Goldstein says:

    How about Papa Gemo??

  4. Joni Kamiya provided a good link to a list of Hawai’ian words:
    http://hawaiian-words.com/home-page/hawaiian-dictionary/

    I found Lehua – Beloved friend/relative, but also the name of an Island so that might be confusing.
    Makana: Gift

  5. Keith Reding says:

    It has to be Sunset because that we the first variety transformed. It is also perfect for Hawaii. I have no idea what the Hawaiian name for “sunset” would be. Joni?

    Keith

  6. Joni Kamiya says:

    I vote for Hau’oli! It means happy in Hawaiian! He’s a happy, healthy papaya that’s virus free.

  7. Ludger Wess says:

    How about Gene D. Coded? Papaya was the first fruit for which the genome was sequenced in total.

  8. Sarah Thompson says:

    I like Aloha or Mahalo… Haoles can pronounce these compared to some of the others. If I take these to a Hawaiian school group, I would hate to mispronounce the name in front of everyone.

  9. Charles Rader says:

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the “default” name Frank-N-Fruit?

    Or if you want to stress the papaya’s bisexuality, Fran Ken Fruit.

Leave a Reply

Biology Fortified, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about issues in biology, with a particular emphasis on plant genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture. Find out more on our About page.

Join us as we learn about agriculture and biology with Frank N. Foode™, your friendly neighborhood genetically modified organism.

Support Biology Fortified