Word for Wednesday: Porridge

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There I was this morning, sitting over my breakfast and thinking of this week’s Word for Wednesday – as it happens; the rather interesting answer was staring right back at me.

Porridge, known in the U.S as ‘oatmeal’ generally refers to a dish of ground cereal that is boiled in milk, water or a mix of the two. It is commonly mixed with something sweet such as honey, fruit jam, or sugar but is occasionally served as a savoury dish through the addition of herbs, spices and vegetables.

With a little research I found that there are a number of unusual spellings for the word porridge, including porage, porrige and parritch. In the world of literature perhaps one of the famous porridge-related moments was when Oliver Twist pleaded to the workhouse master for some more gruel: ‘Please Sir, I want some more’. Gruel is essentially a watered down porridge, and perhaps one of the most revolting words in the English tongue. Gruel. Yuck!

Porridge was a common breakfast for inmates in British prisons and so the phrase ‘doing porridge’ became synonymous with serving time in jail. The phrase inspired the 1974 BBC television series ‘Porridge’ which starred Ronnie Barker as an inmate and earned its place as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time.

Hugh MacDermott

04 Mar 2015
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