Sure About Sherbet

It started with the bimbo entry. Then led to the punch entry. Next I know, I’m wallowing in sherbet.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.etymonline.com/columns/post/sure-about-sherbet

Thank you for that well-researched article! What I find funny about sherbet is, if you are in Maine, there’s a good chance you will see it spelled sherbert at some eating establishments. We remove r’s from where they should be, and add them in where they don’t belong. We like to pahk the cah in the yahd, but tell Linder to add vaniller to the sherbert.

Wow! Thank you for so much detail!

In one way, this is just an extreme case of something that seems to happen quite often: When a food or drink of a certain time and place is taken to a different place or a later time, it usually undergoes some changes as a result. Whenever a recipe changes, there’s an opportunity to give it a new name as well - but that opportunity is usually ignored, perhaps because the older name is well known. (I tend to think that the original name being well known ought to make people more likely to create a new name, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.) So, for example, the world now has a total of nine hundred items (including seven hundred kinds of sausage, a hundred kinds of stew, numerous vegetable dishes, a couple of card games, and a mildly bizarre undergarment), all of which are simply called “chorizo”. I’m pretty sure there isn’t yet a place where “chorizo” indicates a hairstyle, but just give it time. (Just watch. Some person whose house straddles the border between Spain and Portugal is going to correct me, saying that the true original mythical Medusa had sausages for hair rather than snakes, and she turned men to stone not because they looked upon her, but because when they did look upon her they couldn’t correctly distinguish each regional specialty, and remember which way to spell it even though it’s exactly the same word every time.)

Super interesting article! As a brit, when I hear sherbet, I think of sherbert powder (as in, sweets: lemon sherbert, sherbert dib dab, sherbet fountain). It seems like at some point, people stopped using the sherbet powder for making drinks and started consuming it dry. That’s definitely the most common usage.

(As kids, me and my brothers used to make powder sherbet it sometimes at home with icing sugar, citric acid powder and bicarbonate of soda).

I’m aware of the other meanings, but as a dessert, I’ve only seen it very rarely, or as a drink in historical books or middle-eastern restaurants.

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Does anyone else think Mr. Theophilus Lavender (… OK, that’s clearly a fake name) was burying the lead, here?

for although the countrie bee hote, yet they kéepe snow all the yeere long to coole their drinke.

… In the 1500s, in Istanbul? (…was Constantinople, now it’s…) You know, that famously chilly Middle Eastern city. :roll_eyes:

Forget the sorbet, how the HELL did they keep snow year-round?

From Wikipedia :
A [cuneiform]tablet from c. 1780 BCE records the construction of an icehouse by the King of [Mari]in the northern Mesopotamian town of [Terqa], "which never before had any king built. In China, archaeologists have found remains of ice pits from the 7th century BCE, and references suggest that these were in use before 1100 BCE. Alexander the Great stored snow in pits dug for that purpose around 300 BCE. In Rome, in the 3rd century CE, snow was imported from the mountains, stored in straw-covered pits, and sold from snow shops. The ice that formed in the bottom of the pits sold at a higher price than the snow on top. ETC etc

So yes, snow and ice on demand, if you could afford it.