Word for Wednesday: Biscuit

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Taking the biscuit.

A common point of confusion in the English language is the difference between the American and British meaning of ‘biscuit’.

Both refer to a delectable baked treat, but what an Englishman would refer to as a ‘biscuit’ is, in America, known as a ‘cookie’.

In America a biscuit is a savoury ‘quick bread’ with a consistency similar to the English scone (the pronunciation of which is another of the age-old discrepancy of the language!).

In Britain the term biscuit seems to be a much broader term, and they come in an immeasurable and array of shapes and sizes, flavours and textures.

The perpetual ambiguity surrounding the ‘biscuit’ comes from the origin of the word its self, and if the literal meaning were to be taken seriously, we might find ourselves struggling to find something that couldn’t be called a biscuit!

Originating in Middle French, the word is derived from the Latin ‘bis’ meaning twice and ‘coctus’ to cook. The combination of these words comes from the traditional method for making biscuits; they were first baked and then slowly cooked to dry them out so they would keep for longer.

Biscuits are, after all, very personal things. We all have our favourite kind and our habits when eating them. The dunkers, the dismantlers, the nibblers and the ‘oh no there goes the whole packet’-ers (I’m guilty!).

On that rather confessional note, that’s it for this week - the custard creams are calling!

Hugh MacDermott

07 May 2014
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