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Today's Frazz:


  1. Gregory Kusnick said,

    September 30, 2017 @ 2:43 pm

    Maybe I'm overthinking it, but to me "crisp" isn't about temperature; it's about humidity. Food gets crisp (or crispy) when moisture is baked out of it; cold air gets crisp when moisture is precipitated out of it. Both uses of "crisp" are perfectly sensible and non-contradictory in my book.

  2. mollymooly said,

    September 30, 2017 @ 3:05 pm

    The combination "crispy air" is impossible in my idiolect. My uninformd theory / pious fiction to explain this:

    1. "crisp" is the original word

    2. "crisp" has positive connotation in low-temperature and temperature-agnostic contexts, but negative connotation in cooked-food contexts.

    3. so the otherwise-pleonastic "crispy" is invented for positive-connotation cooked-food contexts

    Now I'm off to google to see how mistaken I have been…

  3. Levantine said,

    September 30, 2017 @ 8:12 pm

    To me, crisp air is pleasantly cool and fresh. The term wouldn't make sense to me if used to describe a warm day, regardless of the humidity.

  4. Gregory Kusnick said,

    September 30, 2017 @ 8:49 pm

    There may be some conceptual crossover between "crisp" and "brisk". To me, a brisk day is cool and bracing, with perhaps a hint of rain in the air. Crisp on the other hand connotes dryness, clarity, a hint of static electricity. A damp day, like a damp potato chip, cannot be crisp.

  5. Keith said,

    October 1, 2017 @ 2:19 am

    In "burnt to a crisp", the word "crisp" is a noun. It's what the Americans now call a "potato chip".

    In "the air is crisp", the word "crisp" is an adjective. For me, it conjures up the idea of frost, ice crystals and snow.

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 1, 2017 @ 7:46 am

    Maybe it's unnecessary to mention that "unraveled" is probably part of the joke, since it's sometimes cited as an example of the illogic of English; "unravel" means the same thing as "ravel".

  7. Karen said,

    October 1, 2017 @ 10:00 am

    Crispy things can be ambient temperature, or even cold.

  8. Stephen Hart said,

    October 1, 2017 @ 11:06 am

    Gregory Kusnick said,
    "Food gets crisp (or crispy) when moisture is baked out of it…"

    Or, if it's leafy greens, when it's soaked in cold water.

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 1, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

    Keith: The OED says "crisp air" is indeed transferred from crisp snow or frost. By the time it got to me, though, it gave me associations with blue-skied fall days (which might start with a frost).

    "Burn to a crisp" is originally American and attested considerably earlier than purposely made potato crisps, according to the OED.

    a1852 F. M. Whitcher Widow Bedott Papers (1856) xxix One time, they'll burn their bread to a crisp.

    1929 Star 21 Aug. 13/3 Potato Crisp Factory.

    By the way, the first references to chips made from potatoes are

    1859 Dickens Tale of Two Cities i. v. 19 Husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.

    1886 Chambers's Jrnl. 18 Dec. 808/2 The hand of Zacharias was betrayed in potato chips and cunning sauces.

    1893 I. K. Funk et al. Standard Dict. Eng. Lang. at Chip1 Saratoga chips, potatoes sliced very thin while raw, and fried crisp.

  10. Keith said,

    October 2, 2017 @ 4:14 am

    Jerry, usually we get frost overnight and in the early morning when there is no cloud cover.

    During the day, even in winter, the earth absorbs some heat from the sun. This heat is radiated back into the air during the night. Clouds trap that heat in the air, but in the absence of clouds the heat is lost. Hence, no clouds leads to lower temperatures and frost, which takes the humidity out of the air. It takes some time for the morning sun to warm the air, and this is why we can have a cloudless blue sky, a sharp frost, and yet still feel the heat of the sun on our faces on an autumn or a winter morning.

    I'm not yet convinced that Dickens is referring to thin, vaguely oval slices of potatoes. Unless he is refering to what are usually "game chips" in Britain. The Wikipedia article on "french fries" also describes British chips, and there is a link to an unusually informative article on the Daily Mail; that article mentions what may well be the first of what is now the traditional fish and chip shop, established around 1854, more or less contemporous with Dickens.

  11. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 2, 2017 @ 8:35 am

    Keith: The Dickens quotation is from a description of terrible poverty in pre-revolutionary Paris. I suspect "chips" means the pieces are too small, but I can't really tell. (And does "husky" mean "unpeeled" or "dry and not nutritious"?)

  12. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    October 2, 2017 @ 9:42 am

    I would say that when something is 'burnt to a crisp', it isn't like a potato crisp/chip at all. For one thing, it's typically black, while a potato crisp is brown. That kind of crisp can be burnt, but it isn't normally.

  13. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 2, 2017 @ 10:40 am

    Keith: I should have added that I understand how the association with frost and even snow led to crisp air, weather, days, etc. I was just saying that I for one have lost that association. I connect that "crisp" with, say, fresh apples.

  14. Michael said,

    October 3, 2017 @ 1:03 pm

    And there's roseibni (soft s) in the Hungarian kitchen. Most likely from the German.
    Can anyone identify the source?

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