Rice cake

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Jan 2 08:41:04 UTC 2012

Having eaten three mochi for the new year, I wondered about the OED treatment of the word. It has a nice etymology and definition.

The common English equivalent, rice cake, is also there, but it seems to have more than one meaning, none of which match mochi. The word is not defined, but has four citations:

1683    P. Lorrain tr. P. Muret Rites Funeral 242   This being done, all the company sit down to eat Rice-cakes in the Church it self.
1769    E. Raffald Experienced Eng. Housekeeper (1778) 269   To make Rice Cake.
1862    S. St. John Life Forests Far East II. 42   A particular kind of rice-cake sent in very hot.
1996    Independent 30 Aug. i. 3/4   We tried to get her to eat something but all she'd have was rice cakes.

The 1769 citation is a Moscow context (http://ow.ly/8fowA).
The second one, I don't see on Google.
The 1862 citation is in a Malay context (http://ow.ly/8fos0).
It seems likely that the 1996 citation refers to puffed rice rice cakes (http://ow.ly/8fosQ).

The earliest citation I see for "rice cake" in Google Books meaning mochi is 1806.

"Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States," Volume 18, p. 445 (http://ow.ly/8foES)

 On New Years day, on the anniversary of the foundation of the empire by the first Mikado Jimmo Tenno (660 years before Christ), and on the anniversary of the birth of the reigning Mikado, the troops receive a particularly good allowance, comprising a soft rice cake (motchi), a white cake, a red cake, and katapans.

I don't know what the white and red cakes are, but the same book describes "katapan" as follows: "... also a sort of sweet biscuit called "Katapan," as large as the palm of the hand and as thick as the little finger." This word is probably not worth of note in an English dictionary, though photos of the katapan can be seen at http://ow.ly/8foQn.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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