[Ads-l] jimmies (1930)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 19 19:16:27 UTC 2023

OED3 (draft additions June 2005) has "jimmies" as an alternative term for
"sprinkles" ("tiny confections, typically rod or pellet-shaped, served on
ice cream or other desserts") from 1949. The 1949 cite, an advertisement
for an ice cream shop in the Nashua (NH) Telegraph, was originally shared
by Barry Popik on ADS-L in 2004:


As noted in the Wikipedia entry for "sprinkles," there's evidence of the
use of "(chocolate) jimmies" as a cake topping going back to 1930. There's
also some earlier culinary usage where it's unclear what "jimmies" might
refer to, other than that they were made of chocolate, e.g.:

Wellington (Kans.) Daily News, Mar. 5, 1914, p. 2, col. 3
"High School Notes" by Donald Pray
The class in cooking treated the faculty to chocolate "jimmies" yesterday.
Tyrone (Pa.) Daily Herald, Apr. 12, 1930, p. 8, col. 2
Chicks and Rabbits. Made of the Very Best Solid Milk Chocolates.
Also "Orphan Ann," "Jimmies, "Bozo" and many other members of the milk
chocolate family. [...] Gardner's Candy Store.

In this example "jimmies" are called "tiny chocolate candies," but since
they're used as a cake topping, they seem to be in the same family as

Pittsburgh (Pa.) Press, Dec. 4, 1930, p. 6 (advt. for McCann's)
Here's a cake so delicious and good you simply can't resist it. A smoothly
textured, feather-light sponge covered with creamy butter frosting and
chocolate jimmies. In case you don't know what "jimmies" are ... tiny
chocolate candies.

Later examples have "jimmy"/"jimmies" adorning cookies and pies, as in
these recipes:

Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, Aug. 19, 1932, p. 23, col. 4
Children's Birthday Party Cookies. [...]
Frost with a thin white icing and sprinkle with colored sugar, candies and
Cincinnati Post, Nov. 12, 1932, p. 12, col. 2
Chocolate Bittersweet Pie. [...]
Before serving cover with the whipped cream and sprinkle with grated bitter
chocolate or chocolate “jimmy.”

In these two advertisements for drugstores, "Jimmy" is apparently used as a
mass noun for an ice cream topping. But as it's capitalized, it seems to be
treated as a name (in the second example paired with "Mickey") -- perhaps a
brand name of some sort?

Lancaster (NY) Enterprise, June 14, 1934, p. 6 (advt. for Johnny Thills)
Double dipped cones (with Jimmy) 5c.
Evening Herald (Shenandoah, Pa.), Aug. 2, 1935, p. 13 (advt. for Gregory
Drug Store)
Double Dip Ice Cream Cones with Jimmy or Mickey. 5c.

Later examples of "jimmies" for ice cream have the typical lowercase plural

Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, Oct. 25, 1939, p. 18 (advt. for
Sibley's Cafeteria)
At Our Soda Fountain. Harvest Festival: A delicious sundae, with 2 scoops
of vanilla ice cream, orange marshmallow, topped with chocolate candy
"jimmies." And only 15c.
Biddeford (Me.) Daily Journal, Feb. 7, 1941, p. 12 (advt. for Edward's
Super Food Market)
Jumbo Ice Cream Cones Covered With Delicious Chocolate Jimmies. Ea. 5c.
Baltimore Evening Sun, Dec. 24, 1941, p. 14, col. 8
"The Youngster Set" by Bonny Gay
Who can say what are the loveliest things in life? [...] Do you think as
the above teensters do? Or are you inclined to believe that a stag is tops
... a senior prom ... the service that accompanies breakfast in bed ...
opening gifts ... licking the chocolate jimmies off ice cream cones ...

In none of this early usage is there any indication that "jimmies"
originated with the Just Born candy company. As I described in a 2010 On
Language column on corporate etymythology, Just Born claims that they were
the first to call sprinkles "jimmies" c. 1930, in honor of James
Bartholomew, who purportedly operated the first machine to make them.


The 1930 Pittsburgh Press example above was added to the Wikipedia entry on
"sprinkles" shortly after my 2010 column was published, relying on Google
News Archive:



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