Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snarking at waffles

A local restaurant, owned by a local man, a local mogul, our own Mr. Potter, has a large sign out front touting the breakfast menu, which includes “Belgium Waffles.” Sigh — not for the waffles but for the use of a country name as a modifier. Do they also serve cheese Denmark and England muffins and France toast at breakfast? Probably not — it’s easy enough to distinguish Danish from Denmark, &c. But it’s not really that difficult to distinguish Belgian from Belgium.

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows Belgian waffles taking off in American English in 1959 and reaching its height in 1996. There’s no trace of Belgium waffles before 1977, and very little sign of it thereafter. In 2008, the most recent year for which the Ngram Viewer has results, Belgian waffles outnumbers Belgium waffles 20.5:1. Which means that Mr. Potter’s restaurant is serving some fairly rare waffles. Reservations only.

[The 1959 starting point marks the Belgian waffle as a mid-century American adventure in food. Belgian waffles were sold at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. If anyone other than Mr. Potter owned this restaurant, I would not have written this post.]

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