This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Spot the frippet: marmalade.

It's 1561, and the teenage Queen Mary is at last returning from France to her kingdom of Scotland. But the sea is rough and Mary is feeling very ill. Not only that, but Mary's maid is feeling ill, too - and Mary's maid's maid is feeling worst of all. They are all flopping about and wishing they were dead, and the only person who can help them is Mary's maid's maid's maid, whom I shall call Isabelle.

Now, Isabelle is usually kept well away from all the lords and ladies, and she is terrified: the Queen of France and the Scots is ill and only humble Isabelle can save her! So Isabelle runs to the doctor - only to find that the doctor's face is even greener than the queen's.
'Marie est malade,' Isabelle says, because she is French. Which means Mary is ill.
Unfortunately the poor doctor is too ill himself to care much. He throws Isabelle a jar of some golden jelly and tells her to get out.

Now, whether it is because of the golden jelly I do not know, but Queen Mary soon feels so much better that she rewards Isabelle with enough money to set herself up in a nice little pub in Dundee.

Strangest of all, Isabelle finds that her story is so famous that the golden jelly she took Queen Mary is everywhere known as marmalade, which is clearly a short form of Marie est malade.
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Well, it would be nice to think so, anyway. The Marie est malade story is certainly widely spread - but unfortunately so was marmalade, long before poor Mary Queen of Scots came along.

Marmalade was certainly a medicine for stomach upsets, though, and the modern version using oranges might have been invented in Dundee (the old version used quinces).

The word marmalade seems to be from a Portuguese word, marmelada, from the Greek melimēlon, which means honey apple. Which is odd for something now usually made of lemons, limes, or oranges.

1 comment:

  1. I love your story about Isabelle, which indeed was the one I sort of grew up with...but the real origins are always fascinating!

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