Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Simple to understand, yet difficult to uncover.

The other day I was describing to one of my accounts how important it was to put the right amount of tea leaves in for the amount of tea you wanted to make, e.g. 1 teaspoon of tea leaves for an 8oz cup of tea, 2 teaspoons of tea leaves for a 16oz cup of tea, etc. It seems like a simple enough concept, but when people have used teabags all their life (no matter how much water they used), it's a bit more time consuming to convey.

It was during this that the light bulb went off. Ding! (that's the sound the light bulb makes when it goes off). I've been saying it all this time, but never thought of it before, "use a TEAspoon of TEA for an 8oz cup". It's right there! So simple 1 TEAspoon for 1 cup (aka 8oz), 2 TEAspoons for 2 cups (aka 16oz).

I was amazed. How come it had never passed through my consciousness before? I mean, it makes sense to describe it this way to customers, to make it easier for them to understand, but of course I couldn't leave it there. WHY did teaspoon mean teaspoon? What were the origins of the name? Did they really use that size spoon to measure tea and becuase it was so commenplace that is how its name was derived? Being research driven, I tried to find more.

I looked on Wikipedia, no good. Origins of Words, failed. Online Etymology Dictionary, crash and burn. And typically the winner of all true research needs, The Oxford English Dictionary, nuthin. (How do you like THAT grammar OEM?) I searched high and low but to no avail. I couldn't find a valid description as to how the common nomenclature of the teaspoon, which measures approximately 4.92892159 milliliters of a substance, came about! There was one other person out there in the world wide web who had asked a similar question on Yahoo! Answers and was given a response that seemed pretty valid, but I couldn't quite trust it as fact, particularly because the words "stuff" and "lands" were used. The answer (given below in italics) seems like a half assed attempt to research it and a unoriginal deduction that any of us could have come up with.

But I WANTED FACTS! sigh. No such luck, but if anyone out there truly knows if the name of a spoon holding 4.92892159 milliliters of substance came about because people often used that much TEA for a cup of tea, I would greatly appreciate you letting me know how you know this and where I can find the facts .

Ah...I love US measuring standards...meh.

Word origin for "teaspoon" and "tablespoon"?
Anyone know (and/or have a link to a reference describing) the origin of the names of "teaspoon" and "tablespoon"?

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker
They refer to two different pieces of flatware (or silverware). A tablespoon is one that is used for eating stuff - like soups or sauces or puddings. A teaspoon is a smaller utensil that is used for stirring beverages that are served in a teacup. Their becoming units of measurement for recipes came as a result of their simply being used in everyday cooking, quite frankly, as scoops. It was much later, when cookbooks started to be written for the regular folks like us in the late 17th century (there were earlier ones) that the actual volume of these measurements were standardized. Oddly, in many lands, measurements are made in grams and liters. America in one of the few that use Tbl spoons and tsp as units of measure. I think it is a system referred to as "avoir du pois" and was kept in use by apothecaries in the US. This system utilized measurements like inches and feet, quarts and pints while the rest of the world used meters and liters. I think that avoir du pois (oddly) was a British system that was used at a time when the French were measuring in "drams" and "grains."

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