Monday, December 04, 2006

The Daily Hump: Pumpernickel

I have a lot of work to do this morning, so please enjoy this chunk of blockquote from Wikipedia.
Debate flourishes about the origin of the word. Philologist Johann Christoph Adelung states about the Germanic origin of the word, in the vernacular, Pumpen was a New High German synonym for being flatulent, a word similar in meaning to the English "fart", and "Nickel" was a form of the name Nicholas, an appellation commonly associated with a goblin or devil (e.g., "Old Nick", a familiar name for Satan). Hence, pumpernickel is described as the "devil's fart", a definition accepted by the Stopes International Language Database [1], the publisher Random House [2], and by some English language dictionaries, including Webster's Dictionary [3]. The American Heritage Dictionary adds "so named from being hard to digest."

The OED, however, does not commit to any particular etymology for the word. It suggests it may mean a lout or booby, but also says, "origin uncertain". Its first recorded use in English is from 1756.

Another theory comes from a 17th-century anecdote, according to which a French horseman, stopping at a Westphalian inn, is offered a piece of black bread. Surveying the food with suspicion, he declares: "C'est bon pour Nicole" - Nicole being his horse [4].


:: posted by David, 8:12 AM


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