When a foreign word is introduced into a language, it suffers from the pronunciation efforts of its adoptive parent nation, who may of course suffer from local dialect differences between themselves. The result may be etymological confusion, to say the least. There are a multitude of variants of the word for the most essential of beverages, all – apparently – originating with the Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) word. The first mention in English that I am aware of is in 1601, and the OED gives it as:
1601 R. Johnson tr. G. Botero Travellers Breviat (1603) 216; Water mixt with a certaine precious powder which they [the Japanese] use, they account a daintie beverage: they call it Chia.
Over the next century or so in Britain and Europe knowledge of this ‘daintie beverage’ filtered in independently via numerous travellers and merchants from the East. In some regions the ‘t’ sound became the preferred pronunciation option, and the most essential of human beverages became known as the, tee, tay, tsia and a myriad other forms, and eventually, ‘tea.’
In such a manner are most words adapted and changed by their users over long periods of time. Sometimes, however, only a new word will do, and must be invented – albeit perhaps on the basis of an existing related word. Sometimes the inventor may have a specific, one-off, purpose in mind for the new word. The OED calls these ‘nonce-words’ because they are intended to be used only ‘for the nonce’(i.e for one occasion only.) Sometimes, of course, they do enter the language and become real words, although sometimes with a different meaning to the original. This happened with ‘quark’.
Apart from the writers of nonsense-rhymes and stories (Edward Lear and his ‘runcible’ spoon comes to mind), I find it hard to believe that any word-inventor would wish for once-only use. I am sure the inventor of ‘trophology’, which we met the other day, was intending to be the author of a new discipline (which I guess he was, although in a form distorted from his original intention.) I feel equally sure that the inventor of today’s topic - ‘tsiology’ (a ‘nonce word, according to the OED) - hoped it would become a word of enduring value.
The author concerned used the form ‘tsia’ as the stem for ‘tsiology’, which is ‘a scientific dissertation on tea.’ The wonder to me is that for such an vital resource for the well-being of the human race, that no-one had developed a word for its study before this date, and that its use did not immediately take a permanent place in the English language.
The full title of the book is:
A DISCOURSE ON TEA.
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THAT EXOTIC.
BOTANICAL, CHYMICAL, COMMERCIAL, & MEDICAL,
NOTICES OF ITS ADULTERATION,
THE MEANS OF DETECTION.
WITH A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THE EAST INDIA COMPANY
BY A TEA DEALER
Alas! The book is a scientific and historical treatise, not a recipe book, so it is unable to provide our recipe for the day. Instead, I give you two variations on a theme of soft tea-breads or tea-cakes, from Good cookery illustrated: And recipes communicated by the Welsh hermit of the cell of St. Gover, with various remarks on many things past and present, (1867.) The Welsh do know a thing or two about griddle cakes such as ‘pikelates.’
Thick Welsh Barley Cakes.
Take fine barley meal and make into a stiff dough with skim milk; roll out to the size of a small bake-stone, about three-quarters of an inch thick, and bake. It is eaten with cold butter.
Thin Welsh Barley Cake.
Mix fine barley meal and milk together to the consistency of batter and pour slowly on the bake-stone out of a jug until it has formed a circle the size of a small plate, then let it bake slowly. It ought to be very thin, but soft, like a pancake or pikelate; it is likewise eaten with cold butter.
Quotation for the Day.
Untrammelled canteen helpers are sometimes mystified by requests for ‘chah’ from thirsty soldiers.
Manchester Guardian Weekly, Sept 6, 1940.