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5029.  Wed Jan 21, 2004 7:44 pm Reply with quote

I don't believe anyone has EVER said: "It's the best thing since chewing gum" not even Gregory Y. Titelman.

Good grief, the man can't even come up with a believable pseudonym!

Sophie J
5034.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 4:24 am Reply with quote

From OED's March 2001 News Letter, concerning the treatment of marzipan and marchpane as words with different origins:

Although marchpane and marzipan both derive ultimately from Italian marzapane, they have a claim to being distinct words, and in the revised OED they are treated as such.

The entry for marchpane now offers an explanation of how this form of the word - first found in English in 1516, spelled 'march payne' - came to be so different from its Italian etymon.

The first element, as well as showing an English sound change, may have been influenced by March (the month, named after the god Mars). The etymology cites parallel forms in Latin dating from around 1500 (martiapanes and panis marcius), both suggesting that the word was thought to be linked to March or to Mars in some way. And the second element, -pane, seems to have been assumed to be the same word as Latin panis or French pain. Certainly this 'more Anglicized' form of the word seems to have been in more general use in English than the 'foreign-looking' marzipan: we do know of spellings similar to the latter from as early as 1542 ('marzepaines', in an English translation of Erasmus), but they remained rare until the 19th century.

What, then, is the ultimate origin of marzipan (and its cousin marchpane)? The original OED entry comments that 'Its etymology is obscure', and does no more than mention one scholar as having 'ingeniously' suggested a link with 'Arabic mauthabn "a king that sits still"'.

Once again, recent scholarship allows the new OED entry to put forward a new derivation: in this case Italian philologists have furnished the basis for a link with - remarkably - the Far East. In Myanmar (Burma) there is a port, near the town of Moulmein, called Martaban, which was famous for the glazed jars which it exported to the West, often containing preserves and sweetmeats. Delicacies are often associated with the containers in which they are traditionally imported (ginger being an obvious example); it seems plausible enough that a name associated with a special container should transfer its association to the thing contained.

Plausibility would not, however, be enough were it not for a curious aspect of the words which correspond to marzipan in some of the other European languages: Italian marzapane, Spanish mazapán, French massepain. In each case the relevant word once also had another meaning, denoting various kinds of container - a casket in 15th-century French and 14th-century Spanish (specifically for confectionery in the case of French), and a container of a certain capacity in Venetian documents in the 13th.

And then there is also the fact that Martaban is still known for its pottery: the same batch of recently published OED entries which contains marzipan also contains an entry for Martaban jar (sometimes simply Martaban), this being a kind of large glazed earthenware jar. (The same jars have also arrived in English via Afrikaans: the ships of the Dutch East India Company carried them to South Africa, where even English speakers came to call them Martevaans. By the same exacting criteria that separated marchpane and marzipan, we distinguish Martaban (jar) from Martevaan.)


Sophie J
5049.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 7:05 am Reply with quote

All the sites I've looked at claim that "the best thing since sliced bread" originated in America in the 1920s.

The bread-slicer was invented in the early 1900s by Otto Frederick Rohwedder but didn't properly catch on in the US until Wonder Bread introduced wrapped, pre-sliced bread in the mid 1920s. It supposedly revolutionised sandwich making and such a fuss was made over it that a few years later, anything new or trendy was ironically referred to by Americans as "the best thing since sliced bread".

s: annual/1999/99patents.pd
s: usinventions?opendocument&%7B

5062.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 8:06 am Reply with quote

I wonder if there's a connection between marzipan or marchpane and the month of March itself. The tradition of Simnel cakes, made to take to your mother on the fourth Sunday of Lent for Mothering Sunday, involves the use of marzipan, and I think the fourth Sunday in Lent would always fall in March. 'March-bread' wouldn't seem illogical, and according to one online source I read the Simnel cake tradition is about 900 years old.

5064.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 8:11 am Reply with quote

I hate marzipan. Horrible bloody stuff.

5069.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 8:55 am Reply with quote

Visitors to a lakeside park in Portishead, Somerset, are being told not to feed white bread to ducks because it is thought to cause more females than males to hatch.

(Guardian, 24 April 2002, citing the Clevedon Mercury, 4 April 2002)

Molly Cule
5076.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 10:21 am Reply with quote

Soph, this is an extract from Toast: Homage to a Superfood by Nick Parker, not sure how trustworthy his tales are..

Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the bread slicer. At first Otto used hat pins to hold his slices together, but people choked and the idea flopped. Sixteen years later, in 1928 he refined his idea began wrapping the sliced loaves to keep them together and help them stay fresh. He was then rather pleased with himself and when pleasantly surprised used to say ‘Why, that’s the best thing since I invented sliced bread.’ His wife brought him back down to size by acting out gagging on a hat pin.

Sophie J
5093.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 11:45 am Reply with quote

Hee hee, I love it!

5610.  Tue Feb 03, 2004 9:05 am Reply with quote

Skull, in Ireland, is named after the local slang word for a loaf of bread.
IOS 26.10.03

35963.  Tue Nov 29, 2005 7:10 am Reply with quote

The origins of the word 'marzipan' are quite plainly from the French 'mardi' (Tuesday) and the Greek 'pan' (everywhere) and also gave rise to the phrase 'everyday is Tuesday' because this disgustingly sweet morsel, once only eaten on a Tuesday, could be eaten all week when people became rich enough.

For those of you who do not recognise the phrase 'everyday is Tuesday', this is not surprising as it has not been coined yet. A fact which only goes to prove the wonderfully prophetic properties of marzipan.

Salut, David.


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