Why Do We Call Sweet Potatoes "Yams"?

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If you live in the United States, you almost certainly know that "yams" and "sweet potatoes" are synonyms. Except they're not. Sweet potatoes are an orange-fleshed root vegetable native to the Americas. Yams are a completely different tuber from the completely opposite side of the world, and are a staple of the West African diet. You can probably guess how the word made the jump across the ocean—African people enslaved by white people applied a familiar word to its most similar counterpart, and eventually, it was adopted by marketers looking to distinguish their sweet potatoes from others'. By the way, neither of them are actually potatoes. Keep scrolling for more on foods that aren't what you might think they are.

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