The Language of Chocolate
Valentine’s day and chocolate have coincided for dozens of years. But how did chocolate make the journey to how we know it today? The sweet treat is said to have originated somewhere in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago, when the cultivation, use, and cultural embrace of cocoa started in Mesoamerica. From there it moved north to both Mayan and Aztec cultures where many historians have determined that cocoa was used primarily in drinks.
Explorer Hernan Cortes brought cocoa beans back to the old world where he presented them to Spanish King Charles V. Chocolate then traveled from Spain to France, England, Germany, Italy, before appearing in the United States sometime around 1755. Through these travels, the word “chocolate” has influenced language across the globe, perhaps impacting the English language the most.
Ten Facts About the Word “Chocolate”
- The Nahuatl people of Mexico and Central America are ultimately responsible for the word “chocolate” as we know it today. They called it chocolatl, the edible substance made from the seeds of the cacao tree. When Spanish explorers encountered chocolatl, they mixed it up with the name of the drink made from cacao, cacahuatl.
- The current earliest sense of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), refers to “a beverage made from the seeds of the cacao tree, thanks to Spanish explorers that denoted the word incorrectly.
- When speaking about a particularly toned man in France, one might refer to his six pack as his tablettes de chocolat, literally his chocolate bars.
- A “Chocoholic” is someone who can’t get enough chocolate. The term was first used in 1961 when one journalist in California asked, “Would you call a person who is over fond of chocolates a chocoholic?” Regardless of whether his question was a joke or not, the term caught on and is still used today.
- Chocolate-houses came into fashion in the late 17th century as a place for people to buy chocolate beverages. Although this term is no longer common, it lets us know of the cultural and social importance of chocolate in the 1800s. You might compare this to the coffee houses of today.
- British Rhyming Slang also included references to chocolate in the early 1900s. For example, “I should cocoa” was slang for “I should say so.” Also, the phrase “chocolate frog” was rhyming slang for “dog,” meaning informer.
- Chocolate related compounds have also come into use, like “chocolate-boxy” used to describe the stereotypical romantic pictures found on chocolate boxes of the Victorian era.
- The OED also records chocolate as a verb, although it is rarely used. For instance, a quotation from an 1850 work called Eldorado reads “We across the moonlight, chocolated the comedor, or dining-hall.”
- The Oxford English Corpus tells us that the top four words used with “chocolate” are “cake”, “bar”, “chip”, and “cookie”, while the most frequent modifying adjectives are “hot”, “dark”, “white”, “milk”, “rich”, and “delicious”.
- Production of Hershey’s chocolate bars started the same year he opened his new factory, and in 1937, he and his product were referenced in George Gershwin’s They All Laughed.
We’d love to hear your interesting facts, history, or figures about the language of chocolate. Please, feel free to drop us a line in the comments below. In the mood for a weekend retreat or romantic getaway? Be sure to check out Cedar Creek for all of getaways year round. Make your reservation today! We’ll be sure to keep a slice of one of our decadent chocolate desserts warm for you.