A Word for Wednesday: Cookie

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This week we’ll be looking at another word that has evolved multiple meanings: cookie.

The Internet age has transformed the meanings and connotations of hundreds of words and even introduced new ones into our dictionary; ‘Google’ and ‘retweet’ to name a couple.

The word 'cookie' comes from the Dutch 'koekje' or ‘little cake’ and made its way into American culture as a small sweet cake.

What would be deemed a biscuit in England would be called a 'cookie' in the States, where a biscuit is a kind of hard-crusted bread cake – much like British scones.

Despite the differences in the definition of biscuit, both cultures refer to the circular chocolate-chipped treat as a cookie. Perhaps deliciousness ensures that consistency…

With the invention of the Internet 'cookie', a small text file generated by your web-browser to retain your activity on a website, the words meaning split into two.

When I was growing up there was a massive hysteria that cookies were evil and that they shouldn’t be allowed. Although some companies did exploit the function of cookies to create targeted ads, without cookies shopping online would be a whole lot harder. You know your online shopping basket? Yeah. That uses cookies so that when you return to the website you can continue shopping. Genius.

But why cookies? Well, there are a handful of theories, myths and rumours surrounding the etymology of this term.

Many people believe it comes from the ‘magic cookies’ that were included in the UNIX operating system, these virtual fortune cookies would reveal a light-hearted witticisms to the user when logging in. For example ‘A celebrity is a person who is well known for his well-knownness.

Another idea is known as the ‘Hansel and Gretel theory’, wherein the generated text file acts as a ‘trail of cookies’ to the users activity on the site.

The rumours get more and more fantastical the more you read into it, leading me to believe that the Internet cookie is just one of those words that just works.

It’s just catchy, and catchy leads to success.

That is it for this week's Word for Wednesday, tweet us your cookie pictures @Spellzone. We like cookies! And don’t forget to follow us and like our Facebook page.

Hugh MacDermott

05 Jun 2013
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