zwieback/zweiback

Earlier this year, I annotated a series of historical recipes for Viewpoint, the newsletter of the British Society for the History of Science. Someone wrote in to observe I had misspelled “zweiback” in the recipe copied verbatim from a 1960s US Little League cookbook.

Here was my reply:

I understand well the frustration of seeing a familiar word mis-adapted into other languages; I have still not wholly reconciled myself to “biscotti” being a singular noun in English.

As for “Zwieback”, it does indeed etymologically mean “twice baked”. Both “zwieback” and “zweiback” are spelling variations attested in seventeenth-century German. (Grimm and Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch) In English, therefore, the word “zweiback” is that interesting category of mispelling, the hypercorrection. Indeed, the spelling “zweiback” is the first attested instance of the word in English, in 1894 in the N.Y. Weekly Tribune. (OED)

While I grant that I know no contemporary dictionary which had approved the e-before-i spelling, it is nevertheless a widely-used variation in the United States, to such a degree that I had largely stopped seeing it. Not only is the “zweiback”well-used in recipe books – such as the Memphis Cookbook whose spelling as well as recipe I borrowed – but in commercial production by Log House Foods, which sells “Log House Original Zweiback Toast”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*© S. Worthen 2009