I love Mr Kipling’s little Bramley apple pies, advertised as “exceedingly good cakes”. So far so grammatically good, and good they are. But when buying them this summer during our holidays in England, we also spotted Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good “cherry Bakewells”, which I’d never tried before. But I had heard about them when interviewing a British colleague for my book Languages of The Hague (2019). One of the things she missed most about living in The Netherlands, she told me at the time, were Bakewell tarts. Tarts! What happened to the word? Scrapped because of its negative connotations? Verbal hygiene at work at Mr Kipling’s?
Want to read my book for the 30 other interviews with native speakers of multilingual The Hague? You can order it directly from its publisher, De Nieuwe Haagsche. It is of course “exceedingly good” as well.
Goodness knows what is likely to befall the well known English nursery rhyme ‘The Queen of Hearts’, which reads
The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.
No doubt, there are too many prostitutes, cross-dressers and S&M enthusiasts at play here for the verbal hygienists’ liking.
Let us not have verbal hygienists changing the names of centuries-old foods!
It has been happening in Dutch recently …
The omission of the final common noun, defining what the product is, isn’t all that unusual in British English, despite my comment above, if the product is sufficiently well known, popular and, most importantly, unique. For instance, where biscuits are concerned, you are more likely to refer simply to a Jammie Dodger than a Jammie Dodger biscuit. The same would also apply to a Bourbon, a custard cream and a ginger nut. Some confectionery delicacies, however, will always add the descriptor, such as Black Forest gateau. And fruit pies, for obvious reasons, require the addition of ‘pie’ or else the referent is merely the fruit. Whether anyone would question what is meant if I were to declare ‘I could murder a cheese and onion’ is debatable. I doubt very much whether they would understand a crisp or the individual foodstuffs themselves, which to my mind leaves only one option. Only time will tell whether people make a habit of enquiring if there are any Cherry Bakewells (sic) available at their local shop. At the risk of sounding sexist, language change is a ‘bit of a tart’ herself, invariably skittish.
Yes, how right you are! They couldn’t leave out “pies” from “Bramley apple pies”, as that would leave us with just the fruit. I do wonder what “Bakewell” stands for though. Looking it up in the OED produced “Bakewell pudding” and … “Bakewell tarts”! Last quotation from 1998. But also “Bakewell” as a noun, plural, since 1950 already.