Fwd: Re: Popsicle

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sat Apr 3 22:50:52 UTC 2010

>From Victor.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2010 18:43:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Popsicle
From: victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com>
To: djh514 at york.ac.uk

Me, my dirty mind and Mr. Occam think it's perverse.

No, really, why not some meaning of "pop" (as in "soda", etc., or
"dad", or something else) and "icicle"? Anything wrong with a
portmanteau? Epperson certainly didn't think so. The rest sound not so
much "convenient" as an urban legend.

But maybe it's just me being grumpy.

So let's look at available evidence. From Wiki:

"In 1924, Epperson applied for a patent for his "frozen confectionery"
called the Epsicle ice pop. He renamed it the Popsicle, allegedly at
the insistence of his children."

OK, I think, I can rest my case now. Going from "ice pop" to "pop
icicle" to "popsicle" is a small step. My only concern was whether
"pop" was involved as the operative word.

But, not so fast! The official Popsicle website from Unilever claims:

> In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick in a cup on his porch. It was a cold night, and Epperson awoke the next morning to find a frozen pop. He called it the "Epsicle."
> It was a hit with his friends at school, and later with his own kids. They constantly called for "Pop's 'sicle." So in 1923, Epperson changed the name and applied for a patent. A couple of years later, Epperson sold the rights to the brand name Popsicle® to the Joe Lowe Company in New York. The rest is history!

Interesting how they manage to omit the intermediate step of "Ice
Pop". Could Wiki be wrong?

Well, there can be no doubt of the 1923 origin. By 1925, Popsicle
Corp. was already in court suing for patent right (v. Horn Ice Cream;
v. Dawes Electric Sign & Mfg.; v. W. Bellman; v. P. Rubin; etc.). And
back in 1923,

> The newest thing for the Soda Fountain and Cold Drink Vendors is "Popsicle," a drink on a stick. It is certainly a novelty. It is a clever way to sell water ice, coca-cola, root-beer, orange juice or any flavor frozen on a stick wrapped for five cents, with a big profit for the trade.
> In California, where the idea was invented by Frank W. Epperson, small dealers report sales running into the thousands per week. The New England States' rights have been sold for a big figure to the S. G. Parker Co., of Boston. ...
Practical druggist and pharmaceutical review of reviews, Volume 41,
1923 [snippet only, but date confirmed]

The Soda Fountain, vol. 22, 1923, also points to Popsicle "frozen
drink" as a highlight of a trade meeting.

No one is questioning Epperson's account that his children coined the
term--not sure it's necessarily wise, as Epperson later coined
Creamsicle, Fudgesicle and Dreamsicle. But if he ever did claim that
his children said "Pop's sicle", he's just another clever (but lying)
marketing genius. I suspect, the reference was invented by corporate
writers long after Epperson sold his rights. And even if his children
did not see the connection with "pop" (unlikely, as their father ran a
lemonade stand in Alameda), what are the chances that they would have
called it "Pop's sicle" rather than "Pop's icicle", before contracting
it to "Pops-icle"?

Joey Green also mentions "spoon" rather than "stirring stick" in
connection with the 1905 "incident"--as do several other published
histories. I suspect, this was another clever fib by Mr. Epperson to
provide a cute human angle to the invention--compare that with buffalo
wings, fried clams, the Gatsby (that I posted about earlier) and other
food lore of "accidental inventions"--so the details are not
particularly relevant. But the fact that lemonade had to be stirred is
relevant. So is Epperson's ownership of a lemonade stand--that puts in
doubt the official story of "classmates and his own kids".

The bottom line is that one should trust promotional "histories" of
products even less than Wikipedia entries on them. They should be
treated just like any other marketing claims.


On Sat, Apr 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM, Damien Hall <djh514 at york.ac.uk> wrote:
> My first Twitter-inspired ADSL query: the origins of _popsicle_ (which I
> now learn is a trademarked name).
> One of the people I follow mentions the story that the word comes from the
> inventor's children, who called it "Pop's sicle"; the inventor, Frank
> Epperson, had apparently called it an _epsicle_, presumably a blend of
> <ep>(-person) + (i-)<sicle>.
> OED is 'uncertain', saying it's possibly
> (lolli-)<pop> + (i-)<sicle>
> (the usual BrE name for these things is 'ice lolly', presumably an
> abbreviation of 'lollipop')
> The online version of MW that I have access to says nothing about the
> possible etymology, nor does Barry Popik's website. As I don't know about
> food etymology, but 'I know a man who does', I'm copying Barry in here
> (with the address he used when he was a member of the list) in case he has
> any comments; anyone else? The "Pop's sicle" story seems to me possible but
> unlikely, as too convenient!
> Damien
> --
> Damien Hall
> University of York
> Department of Language and Linguistic Science
> Heslington
> YO10 5DD
> UK
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