Logophily: Editing + Knowledge, part 2

Please join me as I continue my fascinating journey through someone’s shopping list:

Flour=flower, jerks. Don’t believe me? Good. That sort of skepticism is important, particularly for to this sort of linguistic phenomenon. The general rule is that if something sounds likely, it’s not true. But in this case, it’s true: what we call flour was originally the best part -the flower- of the wheat meal. I’d be interested to know why the spelling difference was codified. . . maybe an early phenomenon like lede in the newspaper business [1].

Eggo waffles / syrup go together like sweet potatoes / marshmellows. The latter two items go together in sweet potato casserole, in which recipe sweet potatoes are boiled (possibly before they were canned), mashed with stuff (most importantly butter), topped with marshmallows [2], and baked. It’s the one southern foodstuff I can think of that fits in with what I generally think of as Midwestern oddities, generally grouped under the rubric of salad: things that should be dessert [3], but which are just sitting there with the rest of lunch or dinner [4].


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Provolone is spelled right, which is interesting. The os sound for the most part like os, though the second ones schwas right out. Just the fact that it’s (nominally, anyway) an option these days is kind of neat. . . it’s one of the many foods that’s popped up in the US fairly recently. (I never got back to parmasian on the previous page. . . that misspelling interests me as much as the correct spelling of provolone. It’s nearly what a modern American version of the word might be: parmesian. A Google search uncovered three times as many of the latter misspelling than the former, but it’s closer to the correct spelling, which might have something to do with the difference.)

Regular Triscuits, as opposed to low-fat, or rosemary and olive oil, etc, I suppose. The brand name Triscuit is clearly a play on biscuit. Biscuit shows up in a lot of European languages in one form or another: biscotti is the easy one. It’s from a Latin form (which isn’t attested) that means “twice cooked” [5]. The OED etymology ends as follows: “The regular form in English from 16th to 18th cents. was bisket, as still pronounced; the current biscuit is a senseless adoption of the modern French spelling, without the French pronunciation.”

Cool Whip. There’s a running Family Guy joke wherein one character aspirates the h, so that instead of sounding like /wip/, the word sounds like /hwip/ [6]. It’s based in truth: the w and wh spellings [7] used to indicate different phonemes. . . whale sounded different from wale [8]. The phonemes are still different in various English dialects, most notably (for our purposes) lots of southeastern US ones [9].

Two late entries are the most interesting ones on the list, we’ll skip the rest [10]: greens * (frozen lightly sauté)  is the first. The acute accent is correct [11], which is the most compelling part to me. There’s an extra e, but in English, we usually use the feminine forms of words we steal from French [12].

The penultimate entry is equally interesting: pamento cheese w/ jalepenos. Again, a coupe of tricky vowel (in the American pronunciation, anyway) misspellings, but again, the correct diacritical mark is included. I wonder if those parts of those words remained in the writer’s memory more strongly (because they were learned more recently), or remembered differently (because so few English words use diacritical marks), or if they were copied directly from another source (this seems unlikely, given the vowel mistakes), or what.

As usual, I’m not sure if I have any firm answers here. But make sure to take a close look at things, to see if you can learn something. I got a lot more out of this than I would have if I’d just spouted the usual knee-jerk verbal diarrhea that some people suffer when they see an incorrect apostrophe [13].




1. A story’s lead is spelled lede, to differentiate it from lead, you see. But that was done on purpose, during a more literate era, so I’m curious about the other.

2. I didn’t address the misspelling, so I will here: marshmallows were originally made using the mallow plant. It grows in marshes. This passage is possibly the most suspicious-sounding part of this whole piece, even more suspicious than the flour/flower bit. Please go look it up. It’s true. It’s all true. In any case, I think the misspelling here is influenced by mellow, which has become a much more common adjective, of late (though it goes way back).

3. If anything at all (in some cases).

4. I have never used the word supper- it’s not part of the lexicon of my immediate family, though a lot of my extended family uses it. It’s a word I disliked when I was really young. I’m not quite sure why.

5. I don’t know if this means that Triscuit brand snack crackers are thrice cooked.

6. I mention this bit because it’s one of the few places some readers will have noticed the phenomenon. Meanwhile, on Futurama, Professor Hubert Farnsworth aspirates all of his ws, whether or not they’re followed by an h.

7. The Old English spelling is typically hw.

8. A wale is a ridge, as on corduroy. It’s a really handy Boggle word.

9. The loss of distinction between the two is known as “wine-whine merger,” and there’s a neat discussion here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_history_of_wh

10. The author of this list correctly writes aluminum foil, though many people still say tin foil- see the last issue, true believers! http://www.pankmagazine.com/pankblog/logophily/logophily-editing-knowledge/

Later on, I’m parsing GP as Grandpa: he’s old as hell, and he wants his Michelob Lights. Nobody else is to touch his Michelob Lights. Nobody. If his Michelob Lights are so much as on a different shelf from where he put them, he’s going to be so angry.

11. Except inasmuch as capital letters don’t take accents in French.

12. Not always, though. And here, the fact that the word already terminates in an e makes it less likely that we’d add an extra. Maybe.

13. Man, ease up on the apostrophe anger, y’all. Calm down. People make mistakes because English rules are hideously stupid. Save your indignation for when a writer includes a mixed metaphor and semi-pleonasm in their conclusion. (But you should also relax with regards to the singular neuter pronoun.)


  • Joel Patton

    Even after proofing, I have managed to keep some particularly exciting typos in this piece. There’s a lesson in that, but damned if I know what it is.

  • Joel Patton

    Tadd Adcox appends this note in re wale (or in this case, Wale): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efCPBvFHQ5k