Blowing in the wind


I love rye bread, but I’ve never tried pumpernickel. I wonder where that odd name came from?

Now I must warn you that some dictionaries confirm the following etymology, and some don’t. I think it’s a little too . . . full of hot air . . . for the stuffy Oxford English Dictionary. The bread’s name derives from its reputation for being difficult to digest. “Pumpen” is old German slang for being flatulent, and “nickel” is a reference to the devil. Pumpernickel would therefore translate as “the devil’s flatulence.” I don’t think I want to try it now . . .

The bread, which gets its dark color from a chemical reaction and long baking period, was once a staple of peasants. In one folk tale, Napoleon was given some and declared that he wouldn’t feed it to his horse. This was probably a good thing, as horse flatulence is no doubt worse than the devil’s, and Napoleon was at an unfortunate height . . .

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