How many of you spent yesterday evening sprawled on the sofa with Downton Abbey and a slab of the chocolate of your choice? Surely it’s what rainy Sunday evenings are made for? And chocolate is one of those words, not onomatopoeic but very much, in my opinion, resonant with the richness and general nom-nom-ness (yes, I made that up) of chocolate. You can roll it round your tongue – ccchhhocolate. I’m getting carried away now… and hungry.
So what do we know about chocolate? Well, the Aztecs are often credited with ‘inventing’ chocolate but history shows its existence long before that; the cocoa bean is believed to have originated in the Amazon at least 4000 years ago. But it does seem to be all about Mexico and it is thought that the Olmecs, the first major civilisation in Mexico, were the first humans to eat, or rather drink, chocolate – by mixing the crushed cocoa beans with water and then adding spices, chillies and herbs in the first and second centuries BC. Chocolate was also hugely important in the Mayan and Aztec cultures and the word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Nahuatl ( a member of the Uto-Aztecan language family) word xocoatl which means bitter water, and originally described a drink.
It seems chocolate can also be used as a verb, albeit rarely. The OED has only one quotation from an 1850 work called Eldorado which reads ‘We arose in the moonlight, chocolated in the comedor, or dining-hall.’ I rather like that though – instead of taking lunch, I chocolated at my desk. Take a look at my previous post of other nouns which have become verbs (oh I love it when a blog post comes together!)
And, linking in with another previous blog post (on a roll now!), chocolate is also used in rhyming slang. I should cocoa, meaning I should say so, was first coined in 1936. And according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, the phrase ‘chocolate frog’ was rhyming slang for ‘dog’, meaning an informer. I must admit I’ve never heard that one before though…
One last fact for today (and thanks for the Oxford Dictionaries Word Blog for inspiration and facts) – a particularly toned Frenchman may well be praised for his tablettes de chocolat, literally, his chocolate bars, referring to his six-pack. And on that note, I’m off to Thorntons…image: © Cristian andrei Matei | Dreamstime.com