Sunday, November 18, 2007

Etymology : Snickerdoodle Cookies

I was struck again yesterday by the inexplicable conglomeration of words and phrases that constitutes "English". The most recent occasion of this all-too-frequent etymology perplexity was making snicker doodle cookies for Thanksgiving. I was almost certain that no snickerdoodle cookies I had ever had had snickers in them. But just to be sure I asked my friend, fulling expecting a negative answer, "They don't have snickers, do they?" No. Of course they don't, this is English. So where does this misleading name come from? We guessed that it might be Scandinavian , something like sniggerdaiden (I have no idea if that actually sounds Scandinavian). As for the meaning, the only explanation we could coming up was that they make you laugh or "snicker"...

So, after a brief consultation with The Oracle--google--we came up with a few possibilities. Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

"Nobody is sure where either the cookie or its name originated. Various food historians have shown that biscuits and cookies similar to the Snickerdoodle have been recorded in the Ancient Roman era and Medieval Europe. In Renaissance England, a cookie called a “jumble” was popular in the cuisine. Later, Germans were known to have added more spices and a variety of different dried fruits, eventually evolving into the gingerbread cookie. Cookbooks from the 18th and 19th centuries have also contained recipes comparable to the Snickerdoodle.[1]

The origin of the name “Snickerdoodle” has given rise to many theories but few facts. The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word for "snail dumpling" (Schneckennudeln, or cinnamon-dusted sweet rolls). Similarly, one author states that “the word 'snicker' may have come from a Dutch word 'snekrad,' or the German word 'Schnecke,' both describing a snail-like shape.”[1] However, another author believes the name came from a New England tradition of fanciful, whimsical cookie names,[2] and yet another cites a series of tall tales around a hero named Snickerdoodle from the early 1900s.[3]"

Now personally the last explanation is my favorite, and I think it's just as likely for the simple reason that none of the possibilities make sense. A snail shape? Have they ever seen a snickerdoodle. For those who haven't, or can't remember, here's a picture. In fact, there is an entire chidlren's series by Otis Ham from the early 1900s--clearly predating all modern superheroes--based on the hero "Snickerdoodle" who rides around in a peanut mobile. Snickerdoodle is called, "the tiny pre-runner to superman."

Wow. All the things I never knew.

1 comment:

  1. Now, they neglected the important possibilty of the name as a corrupted form of "sneak-her-two-more",which was what children of Germanic descent may have said while trying to abscond with the goods.

    Come on, Wikipedia, think outside the box...