Before I get stuck into this week’s word (spud) I want to note the passing of Meave Binchy, the grande-dame of Irish women’s fiction. She will be missed by readers and writers at home and abroad. I love her fiction and have found all of her writing advice to be useful (especially her book “The Meave Binchy Writers’ Club”). May she rest in peace. Although I suspect she’s eavesdropping on the angels right now and scribbling notes.
Spuds were on my mind this week as I paid a visit to Tayto Park with my children. This activity park/zoo is inspired by a certain Mr. Tayto – the brand logo for a popular type of crisps (chips for American readers) here. I’m only slightly amazed that while France has Puy de Feu and Disneyland Paris, Italia has Gardaland and Pinocchio Park, the UK has Legoland and places like Alton Towers, we Irish have a theme-park based around a potato. Clearly the potato famine has been forgiven.
Anyhow, it was a grand day out, as Wallace would say, and I enjoyed the tour of the crisp factory until they claimed that the origin of the word spud (popular slang for potato) is from Scotland and refers to the utensil used to unearth the tubers. Hmph, surely not?
Word Origins agrees that the spud was a tool for digging, originally a small dagger, and even gets it from Samuel Pepys’ diary in 1667 but gives no indication of origin. They also debunk the myth that it came from SPUD – the Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet formed by an Englishman. As a lover of all things spudlike (mashed, roasted, saladed, baked, boiled, fried, crisped, dauphinoise, gratined etc) I was relieved to hear that.
Wikipedia agrees, adding that the word may originate from spyd in Dutch and is related to spad in Latin and spade in English, which makes sense. They also reveal that potato comes from patata in Spanish, which again makes sense.
Despite checking several other dictionaries I can’t find any reference to Scotland but all seem agreed on the digging tool being the origin of the word. Either way, enjoy your spuds today.
On a bizarre spud-note, check out Irish potato candy from Philedelphia, USA.
In other news, my short chick-lit story “The Puddle” is featured in Metro Fiction this week.
Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,