Fun Etymology Tuesday – Sandwich

It’s Tuesday again! You know what that means!

Today’s word is “sandwich” and it’s a little different from the stories we usually tell here. No “it comes from PIE …” today! Instead, this word is actually said to come from an English title: the Earl of Sandwich. Specifically, it’s said that a ”sandwich” is named after the 4th Earl, John Montagu (1718-1792), an inveterate gambler. Why mention gambling? Well, supposedly, good old John once spent twenty-four hours (!) at the gaming-table, forgoing proper meals and instead had slices of cold beef placed between slices of toast, thus “creating” the sandwich! This account is given by Grosley in his book “Londres”, from 1770, in which he speaks of the word as recently coming into use (according to the OED – we have unfortunately not been able to access the original source).

As for the family name “Sandwich”, it is from Old English Sandwicæ (meaning literally “sandy harbour”), and is a place-name, referring to the historic town Sandwich in the county of Kent in south-east England.

So next time you grab a sandwich, spare a moment to thank the gambling Earl, and don’t forget to join us next week for another Fun Etymology Tuesday!

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