flour gems

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 26 08:53:51 UTC 2010

English muffins and popovers, if OED can be trusted, appear to have
originated in the US (as terms, not products themselves!) at about the
same time, in the first half of the 19th century. It seems an
alternative term for English muffins--at least in the interwar period,
1865-1914--was "flour gems". In addition to the generic "flour gems",
they could also be described as "white", "graham", "rice" and "corn"
varieties. None of the current dictionaries that I checked--including
the OED and Cambridge--have an entry or a subentry for "flour gems".
AHD4/Yahoo does have gem==type of muffin (WNWCD similar). MWOL(11) has
simply gem==muffin (same in Infoplease and RHD). TheFreeDictionary oddly
has "a sweet quick bread baked in a cup-shaped pan"--"oddly" because of
"sweet". No matter how one stretches the standard definition of "gem",
it does not seem to fit the image of an English muffin. One aspect that
is interesting is that there seems to be occasional identification
gem==muffin, but in the examples that I found, "flour gem" is invariably
"English muffin".

So, two questions:

1) Is there any contemporary use of "flour gem" either in a generic
sense (like muffins, popovers or English muffins) or in a
recipe-specific sense?
2) should there be a new-old dictionary entry for these?


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

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