Sometimes, we take things for granted. We certainly do here on the blog as we quest for expanded knowledge. We glance over concepts that we think we already understand, but every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to go back to basics to make sure your understanding is solid.

Today, we go back to bread. In a way, this blog started with bread, at the breakfast table on New Year’s Day, when Mr. FamilyTrivium was reminiscing about his childhood and  spreading orange marmalade on toasted bread. We’ve since mentioned bread while examining the hot dog, pizza, and sandwich.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bread as “a baked food made from a mixture of flour and water.” A basic component in the diet of civilized populations, bread has quite a history as can be gleaned from its entry at the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Old English bread “bit, crumb, morsel; bread,” cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brot. According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, which would be from the root of brew (v.) and refer to the leavening.

But OED argues at some length for the basic sense being not “cooked food” but “piece of food,” and the Old English word deriving from a Proto-Germanic *braudsmon-“fragments, bits” (cognate with Old High German brosma “crumb,” Old English breotan  “to break in pieces”) and being related to the root of break (v.). It cites Slovenian kruh “bread,” literally “a piece.”

Either way, by c. 1200 it had replaced the usual Old English word for “bread,” which was hlaf (see loaf (n.)). Slang meaning “money” dates from 1940s, but compare breadwinner. Bread-and-butter in the figurative sense of “basic needs” is from 1732. Bread and circuses (1914) is from Latin, in reference to food and entertainment provided by governments to keep the populace happy. “Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses” [Juvenal, Sat. x.80].

If you eat bread, what is your favorite type? If you don’t eat bread, is there something in your diet that you see as an alternative? Feel free to share in the comments.


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