Pumpernickel (1766)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri May 3 17:25:58 UTC 2002

In a message dated Thu, 2 May 2002  7:49:36 PM Eastern Daylight Time, sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> writes:

> >
>>On Thu, 2 May 2002, James A. Landau wrote:
>>> spread through the town, either as a satire on the local bakers or via false
>>> modestry used as advertising by the bakers.
>Is  pumpernickel  notably productive of flatulence?  Could the farting
>perhaps refer to the outgassing of the dough, which, being of rather low
>gluten content (compared to all wheat, for instance) and relatively
>[in]elastic, is less able to contain the gases produced by fermentation?  Maybe
>this was the bakers' own nick(!)name for it.

You are a very sage hen, indeed.

I have no idea whether pumpernickel or white bread produces more intestinal gas, but it doesn't matter, as the "white trash" who live on "black bread" are quite likely to have acquired a reputation for breaking wind, whatever their actual intestinal fortitude.

I must say that your idea fits my argument quite well.  I was arguing that of two competing etymologies for what probably started out as a slang expression, the more likely is the one that claims the more effective propagation channel.  By that argument, your etymology is the more likely, since it is easy to imagine that once some baker invented the name, it spread among the local Baker's Guild as shop talk, then horizontally to bakers of other towns as it seeped out vertically from the bakers to the laity.


In a message dated Thu, 2 May 2002 11:37:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Benjamin Fortson <fortson at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> writes:

>"Modestry"? Typo, or for real? Fifteen hits on Altavista...

Typo.  I checked your fifteen hits, and they all seem to be typoes.  Two were on "Modestry Blaise", which I assume is actually "Modestry Braise", a Japanese liberated-woman heroine, who appears on video games by Nintendro and in animre cartoons aimed at young males who are too "blase" to be interested in yet another martial-arts male hero.  The name "Braise" is not a piece of dialect comedy, but rather the result of an English orthography pitfall---the Japanese were unable to recognize that "Blaise" was a homonym of "blaze" and so they went for "braise" as in "steak", giving a mental picture of our heroine quietly being cooked for dinner.

Somebody asked whether upper-class Germans were into speaking French.  Well, Friedrich der Grosse (sp?) is said to have preferred French to German, and he must have had some company.
(In Germany, after the Napoleonic Wars, English replaced French in snob appeal.)  However, I doubt that a French expression, meaningless to German peasants, would have gotten into circulation for the bread peasants ate.


Seriously, I notice that the question of propagation channels rarely comes up in the ADS-L list.  The last mention I can recall offhand was in, if I remember correctly, Jesse's post on the thread "Thanks to Lexicographers" in which he created seven or eight prototype citations for a fictitious Foobaristani word and asked which one was more likely to be associated with a channel for the word's propagation into English.

    - James A. Landau
      occasional communications engineer

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