Sweet, sweet sherbet drink (> frozen dessert)

« previous post | next post »

What with the high heat (in the 90s) these days, at least here in Philadelphia, and all the talk of Semitic roots, especially those beginning with one or the other of the five Proto-Semitic sibilants, I feel an impulse to write about "sherbet".

Already from the time I was a little boy, I sensed that "sherbet" had an Oriental flavor, and I undoubtedly looked up the etymology of the word by the time I was in high school.  But the resources for studying the etymology of such words were not so advanced and readily available as they are now, so I probably didn't get much beyond realizing that the word was borrowed from Turkish into Western languages.

Now, we have easy access to a much fuller and deeper story of the origins and development of "sherbet".  Here I quote the complete entry for it from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed.


1. also sher·bert (-bûrt′) A frozen dessert made mainly of fruit juice or fruit purée, usually with sugar and milk or cream.
2. Chiefly British A usually fruit-flavored effervescent powder, eaten as candy or made into a drink.
3. also sherbert Australian An alcoholic beverage, especially beer.

[Ottoman Turkish, sweet fruit drink, from Persian šarbat, from Arabic šarba, drink, from šariba, to drink; see śrb in Semitic roots.]
Word History: Although the word sherbet has been in English for several centuries, it has not always referred to what we now normally think of as sherbet. Sherbet came into English from Ottoman Turkish šerbet (Modern Turkish şerbet) and Persian šarbat, words referring to a traditional Middle Eastern beverage of sweetened, diluted fruit syrup or juice. The Turkish word is borrowed from Persian, and the Persian word comes from Arabic šarba, "drink." (The -t at the end of the Turkish and Persian words, by the way, comes from the non-pausal pronunciation of the Arabic word šarba. Before a pause or at the end of a sentence in Arabic, the feminine noun ending -t is dropped. When used within a sentence, or when a possessive suffix is added to a word, however, the final -t ending remains, as for example in šarbatī, "my drink.") The Middle Eastern drink began to be imitated in Western Europe in the 1500s, and the word sherbet is first attested in English at the very beginning of the 1600s and was probably known even earlier. In English, during the 1800s, sherbet came to be used to refer to a fizzy sweet drink made with an effervescent flavoring powder, and nowadays in British English, sherbet usually refers to a kind of candy, a fizzy flavored powder eaten by dipping a finger into a packet. Because the original Middle Eastern drink contained fruit and was often cooled with snow or shaved ice, sherbet also came to denote a kind of frozen dessert. Current American usage maintains a distinction in meaning between the words sherbet and sorbet—sherbets tend to contain milk or extra binding ingredients and closely resemble ice cream, while sorbets tend to be lighter, often consisting simply of ice and fruit juice or liqueur. This distinction, however, was not so clear-cut in the past, when sherbet covered a wider variety of cooling drinks and desserts than it most often does today. The word sorbet first appears in English in the 1500s and is a borrowing of French sorbet, itself a borrowing of Italian sorbetto. The Italian word comes from the same Ottoman Turkish šerbet that gave us sherbet.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
One of my favorite frozen desserts is Häagen-Dazs pineapple coconut, which to me lies somewhere between a sherbet and an ice cream (they classify it as the latter).

Selected readings


  1. jin defang said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 10:37 am

    you can make either sherbet or sorbet easily at home, thereby being able to use your favorite kind of fruit and/or syrup. Kids love "helping," then get to enjoy something you know is healthy.

  2. Dan Milton said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 10:56 am

    Shrub, from the same source, is the name for various fruit-based drinks.
    I always assumed they were popular somewhere I wasn't familiar with, but the last OED citation is 1888 W. Besant "Is there any living man who now calls for shrub?", so I guess it's obsolete.
    So how should I understand OED's "Frequency (in current use)" five dots out of eight?

  3. Alexander Browne said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 11:33 am

    @Dan Milton: My partner got a jar of homemade shrub concentrate from her friend last summer – or was it the summer before that? – in either case, much more recently than 1888. I would say it's a throwback or "rediscovered" kind of thing, but I've seen it around Minneapolis, fitting in with with kombucha and homepage jam.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 11:49 am

    Shrub and lovage were both very popular in the United Kingdom amongst older drinkers, but the company that produced both (Phillips of Bristol) sadly ceased production a couple of years ago. More on the history of the firm, and the seven cordials which they produced, can be found here.

  5. ktschwarz said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 12:36 pm

    The reason the OED doesn't have citations for "shrub" (drink) after 1888 is that the entry hasn't been updated since 1914. This is why we need dictionaries besides the OED! Collins has it and so do several American dictionaries, so it must still be around (never heard of it myself). And the reason the OED's "Frequency (in current use)" is so high is that those measures are automatically generated from the Google Books Ngram corpus, and the analysis couldn't distinguish the drink kind of shrub from the tree kind of shrub.

  6. KeithB said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 12:38 pm

    I am more interested in Australians calling beer "sherbert".

  7. Alexander Browne said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 1:39 pm

    I should add that all the shrub (drinks) I've encountered have been non-alcoholic – basically flavored vinegar to add to sparking water.

  8. Chas Belov said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 1:57 pm

    I too have never heard the word shrub refer to a beverage. I was aware of sherbet as a kid and believe I didn't hear sorbet or become aware of the distinction between the two until much later. Thank you for the interesting history of that word.

  9. Not a naive speaker said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 3:00 pm

    The World's First Soft Drink with five recipes and references to cookbooks

  10. Jim Breen said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 3:49 pm

    Here in Oz calling beer "sherbet" is very rare and dated. I think most people are unaware of it.

  11. Martin Schwartz said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 4:45 pm

    From Arabic √šrb 'to drink' also come šarāb, the ultimate source
    of Eng. syrup ; it i also the etymon of Pers. šarāb 'wine';
    also Arab. šurba 'soup', whence Turk. çorba 'soup' (ç = č!),
    of which I have fond memories. I like the accidental similarity
    of Lat. sorbeo, which may share a slurpy onomatopoeic origin
    with the Arabic (which has no cognates in Aramaic or Hebrew).
    Martin Schwartz

  12. martin schwartz said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 5:18 pm

    Yes, shrub from the same Arabic root, but probably
    more specifically from the NOUN šarāb. Via Persian to Hindustani to British India to English? ?As for sherbet, the -t became lexicalized in Persian šarbat, whence in the European form.
    Martin Schwartz

  13. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 12:31 am

    Candy powder is available in the U.S. It is called Fun Dip:


    Drinks called shrubs appear in historical novels and various cookbooks, so I’ve heard of them. I know I have read more about them, and found some more information on my bookshelves.

    Dan Jurafsky, in “The Language of Food: A linguist reads the menu,” (W.W. Norton, New York, 2014) has a chapter titled “Sherbet, Fireworks, and Mint Juleps” (pp. 144-158). Some excerpts follow:

    “… Ice cream was invented by modifying a chemical process originally discovered for fireworks, and applying it to the fruit syrups that became lemonade, agua fresca, and sodas. And as we’ll discuss in the next chapter, the way ice cream flavors are named turns out to have a surprising relationship with the evolutionary origin of the human smile. …

    “Orange blossom is, in fact, the original ice cream flavor, appearing in the earliest recipes by the mid-1600s, the period when ice cream was invented. …

    “And by 1700 [in England] other ice cream flavors were developed as well, including pumpkin, chocolate, and lemon, and a plethora of early sorbets: sour cherry, cardamom, coriander-lemon, and strawberry. …

    “The story begins with the fruit and flower syrups, pastes and powders of the Arab and Persian world. … Quince paste spread from Cairo as far west as Muslim Andalusia… and in England and the United States, where we call another descendant “marmalade“ (from Portuguese marmelo, “quince”). Marmalade meant “quince paste” in English until the start of the seventeenth century, and somewhat longer in the United States. …

    [Jurafsky gives an etymology for syrup, from Arabic “sharan” to Medieval Latin “siropus” to English “syrup.”]

    “By 1662, sherbets were available across Europe. … And by 1676 in France, sherbets were the business of the guild of limonadiers, in charge of lemonades, iced waters, ices of fruits and flowers, sherbets, and coffee. …

    [The author discusses the discovery of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) in China, its adoption and improved processing in the Arab world, and the use of the endothermic reaction to cool beverages when potassium nitrate was dissolved in water to make a cooling liquid bath for beverage containers, particularly in the Mughal empire of Akbar the Great. By 1550, word of this innovation had reached Rome. The Neapolitans made Ottoman sherbets, then froze them using a combination or saltpeter and snow. Shortly thereafter, Italians figured out they could use common salt instead of saltpeter to freeze liquids.]

    “Sherbet, sorbet, syrup, and ice cream aren’t the only modern descendants of these ancient scarabs and sharbats. The English word “shrub” used to be the name of a lime-sugar syrup, and also a drink made by sailors by combining the syrup with rum or arrack. In fact spirits historian David Wondrich suspects the presence of shrub on board British ships as a scurvy preventative may have influenced the invention of punch, the world’s first cocktail.Shrub became widespread in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States, where raspberries were much more common than lemons. Raspberry shrub was made by boiling down raspberries, vinegar, and sugar into a syrup, which was bottled and then drunk with cold water in the summer. …

    “The sourness, of Pop Rocks, Kool-Aid, Tang, or the powdered lemonade of my own childhood, however, still comes from tartaric, citric, or malic acid. …

    “Citric and phosphoric acids are the source of the perkiness in modern Coke and Pepsi and 7UP as well, sodas that were originally nineteenth-century drugstore patent syrups full of medicinal ingredients not so different from the thirteenth-century Cairo apothecary syrups…

    “Oh and you might even have heard of the word we used to use in English for these apothecary sugar syrups. The word was “julep,” from the Persian word “gulab” (rosewater). It’s been a word for medicinal syrup since 1400, although by now we just use it in one drink, that delightful summer refresher at the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep.”

    [This chapter also includes a variety of recipes. Any errors in transcription are mine — sorry.]

    The bibliography lists this history of punch:

    Wondrich, David. 2010. Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. Penguin.

  14. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 1:20 am

    My 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc.) has a recipe on p.44 titled “Fruit Shrubs or Vinegars.” It is a combination of fruit juice, sugar, and vinegar intended to be canned, then later served over shaved ice. The result would be a product similar to the contemporary so-called Hawaiian ice. The alternative suggestion is to combine the shrub with rum to make a winter drink.

    The 1997 edition, with Ethan Becker, does not have the shrub recipe, and, in act, dropped the entire chapter on beverages, substituting a section that only addressed tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.

    The 2019 Joy of Cooking, listing authors Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, and Megan Scott, restores the beverages chapter, which now includes “smoothies and ice cream drinks.” While there is no shrub recipe, there is one for agua fresca, and there are a number of fruit punches. The chapter on cocktails, wine, and beer has a mint julep recipe. The section on rum includes a recipe for “Grog,” with dark rum, lime, sugar, and hot tea or water. In the chapter’s selection of punch recipes, there are several that use rum, but none with the fruit-sugar-vinegar syrup typical of shrub.

    I suspect that the shrub recipe in my 1975 edition was an artifact of the earlier editions, and perhaps already well out of fashion. The recipe for grog is the closest the 2019 edition comes to a shrub recipe.

  15. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 4:18 am

    In an essay on “Soft Drinks” (pp. 702-712) in volume one of “The Cambridge World History of Food, “ (Cambridge University Press, 2000), Colin Emmins gives a hint as to why “sherbet” and other food terms came into English from the Semitic languages. He writes:

    “In view of the heavy Arab influence on Italian Renaissance cuisine, lemonade may have originated with the Arabs. But in any event, sixteenth-century Italians seem to have been the first Europeans to enjoy this beverage made from freshly squeezed lemons, sweetened with sugar or honey, and diluted with water to make a still, soft drink that could be prepared, sold, and consumed on the premises. Its popularity spread to France and gradually to the rest of Europe, until by the eighteenth century, lemonade of this sort was available from the inns of Scotland to the Turkish baths of Constantinople. …

    “In the eighteenth century and earlier, citrus juices were among many articles of diet used in attempts to find a cure for scurvy, a disease which only in the twentieth century was discovered to result from a dietary deficiency of vitamin C. …

    “… Captain Cook on his voyages to the Pacific was supplied with lemon juice as a concentrated syrup, with most of the vitamin C unwittingly boiled out in the preparation. …. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the British Admiralty Board introduced lemon juice into the seaman’s diet, where it was usually preserved by mixing with rum. In the mid-nineteenth century lemon juice was largely replaced on British ships with West Indian lime juice. …

    [Even though the essay is on “soft drinks,” Emmins says “The term “soft drink,” however, dates only from the last years of the nineteenth century and seems to have originated in the United States. It is, therefore, strictly anachronistic to refer to such bygone products as soft drinks, although admittedly, an appropriate alternate term is lacking.”]

    Emmins discusses the origins of lemon squash and orange squash, but unless I overlooked it, he does not discuss shrubs.

    The same volume of the Cambridge history includes an essay on “Milk and Dairy Products” (pp. 692-702) by Keith Vernon. Although he does not say so directly, one reason sherbet and ice cream developed in Italy and Europe as opposed to elsewhere is lactose intolerance. Vernon writes:

    “Early on in human history, however, a fundamental split occurred in the history and culture of dairy consumption… It has been estimated that although more than 96 percent of northern European peoples are able to digest milk, some 50 to 75 percent of Africans, Indians, Near Eastern Asians, eastern Europeans, and virtually all Asian and Native American peoples cannot digest it. …

    [There is a paragraph on Chinese agricultural practices and cultural issues which might have contributed to the minimal consumption of milk, concluding with “… it appears that after the ensuing period of Mongolian rule, milk definitely acquired a barbarian reputation.”]

    Vernon does not discuss ice cream and only mentions cheese briefly, probably because his essay and the one on soft drinks are both in a section headed “Dietary Liquids.”

  16. David Morris said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 4:44 am

    I had never encountered sherbet for beer. Most search results are for modern fruit-flavoured beers but the Urban Dictionary lists it and links it to the frothy head of the beer.

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 5:01 am

    The word "sherbert", with the meaning "an alcoholic drink, especially beer", as in "we’re going to the pub for a few sherberts", was attested in the Cooee Travellers Backpackers guide to Aussie slang in the year 2002.

  18. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 6:07 am

    Sherbet has a long entry in “The Oxford Companion to Food,” by Alan Davidson (Oxford University Press, 1999). The entry was written by Davidson in 1993 and revised by Laura Mason in 1998; entries are in alphabetical order and there are no page numbers.

    Some of the etymological information has already been posted, but here is part of the entry:

    “The old word “shara^b,” before it changed its meaning and apparently at a very early date, passed into Spanish and Italian and thence became current in most of the European languages; obvious examples are the English word syrup and the French “sirop.”

    “The later Arabic word “sharba^t” also entered European languages. In the late 16th century it appeared in Italian as the name of a beverage drunk in Turkey. Then the beverage itself entered Italian cuisine, under the name “sorbetto.” It took this form because the Italians assimilated it to their verb “sorbire,” meaning to sip. The Italian “sorbetto” gave rise to the French “sorbet,” the Spanish “sorbete,” etc. All these words begin with ‘s’ not with ‘sh’. English seems to be the only language which took the word sherbet directly from the Turkish, complete with its’h’. …

    “According to the dictionary compiled by Foretiere in the late 17th century, a sorbet in France at that time was also a drink, of sugar and lemon pulp. Diderot’s great encyclopedia of the 1750s suggests that it remained so during the 18th century, however, a sorbet could be either a drink or a sort of ice more suitable for drinking than eating, and in the latter case had an alcoholic content. The distinction between an iced drink and a drinkable ice is a fine one, but it clearly existed fro the French, and it was the drinkable ice which developed into the eatable sorbet (see Water Ices) now found in French restaurants. …

    “The word sherbet did not pass into general use in America until the middle of the 19th century. Later on in that century, it and sorbet were used as synonyms. …

    “As for developments in the USA in the 20th century, it must be said that no two Americans will give exactly the same answer to the question: what is a sherbet? Differing laws in the various states have to be taken into account, as well as different local traditions and differing individual opinions. California is the state where the largest quantities of sherbet are made, and Californians will typically state that a sherbet certainly does not contain milk or milk products. In New York state, on the other hand, it seems to be a legal requirement that it should.”

    The entry on Water Ices says in part:

    “It has been suggested that ices (whether water ices or ice cream) were made much earlier in China. This seems not impossible, and would be difficult to disprove. However, the further idea that they were introduced to Europe by Marco Polo, returning to Venice from China in the 13th century, is unsupported and is best counted as a piece of culinary mythology. “

    [Citing research by Elizabeth David, and also Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir, the entry says it is impossible to know “whether true water ices were first prepared in Italy or France or Spain.”]

    The entry under Ice Cream says “one of the most spectacularly successful of all the foods based on dairy products, [ice cream] has a comparatively short history. The first ice creams, in the sense of an iced and flavored confection made from full milk or cream, are thought to have been made in Italy and then in France in the 17th century, and to have been diffused from the French court to other European countries. However, although the French did make some ice creams from an early date, they were more interested in water ices.

    “The first recorded English use of the term ice cream (also given as iced cream) was by Ashmole (1672), recording among dishes served at the Feast of St George at Windsor in May 1671 ‘One Plate of Ice Cream’. The first published English recipe was by Mrs Mary Eales (1718).”

    [The entry notes that the English continued to prefer ice cream even when fashionables on the continent preferred water ices, and that preference for ice cream seems to have contributed to the popularity of ice cream in the U.S., such that ice cream, in the U.S., in Britain, and in Europe, came to be regarded as a national dish of Americans.]

    The Oxford Companion has no entry for “shrub,” nor is there an entry for “grog.”

    From the bibliography:

    Ashmole, Elias (1672), The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, London: Nathaneal Brooke.

  19. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 6:29 am

    The google n-gram viewer seems to confirm my recollection that "sorbet" was a vanishingly rare word in my earlier childhood, where "sherbet" was the only word in common use (in the circles in which I moved) for that sort of ice-cream-alternative. Sorbet began to start moving up from the x-axis in the late Seventies, then grew fast through the Eighties and Nineties while "sherbet" was stagnant, with the trendlines finally crossing in the year 2000. My perhaps cynical theory about the change is that "sorbet" sounded more Foreign and Fancy to American ears than "sherbet," making it easy to charge higher prices for.

  20. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 6:40 am

    The wiki article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrub_(drink) clarifies perhaps more explicitly than some of the prior contents that "shrub" has historically been used in English to refer to two separate and distinct genres of beverage, only one of which features vinegar. A still-in-production instance of the other sort (alcohol yes, vinegar no) is Clement Creole Shrubb, a rum-based orange-and-spices liqueur produced on Martinique. I don't know why it's spelled "shrubb" rather than "shrub" on the label; maybe some sort of Franglais historical mix-up?

  21. Victor Mair said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 7:51 am

    @J. W. Brewer


    Maybe to distinguish it from the plant?

    Or just to fancify it? Like "shoppe" instead of "shop".

  22. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 8:22 am

    @J.W. Brewer —

    “Shrubb” may be the spelling on Martinique. I found at least two other similar products, and it looks like all three come from Martinique:

    Rhum J.M Shrubb Liqueur d’Orange
    Hamilton Petite Shrubb Orange Liqueur

  23. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 8:51 am

    Bittermens, LLC, with a mailing address in New Orleans, offers vinegar-based shrubs. One is a celery shrub, and the other is this one:


    Martha Stewart has a recipe for a shrub that combines beet and lemon, a signature drink from Russ and Daughters in New York City:


    Advice on making shrubs and using them in cocktails here:

    “When it comes to using a shrub in cocktails, its flavors typically shine best in juleps and drinks over ice, since shrubs benefit from a hefty dose of dilution. They’re also best in cocktails that don’t already contain a highly acidic element such as lime or lemon juice, but every rule has an exception. Ellenwood uses a pineapple shrub in her Island Oasis cocktail, where it’s joined by aged rum, coconut water and pineapple juice.”


  24. Chris Button said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 9:19 am

    @ Martin Schwartz

    Interesting you note the onomatopoeic connection. I’ve often wondered if something onomatopoeic might be going on with 汁 “juice, soup”, which has a somewhat similar phonological form in many Sinitic languages. However, the Old Chinese reconstruction rather throws it off with its velar onset that then palatalized to create the later similarity. That puts it closer to a gulping sound than a slurping one.

  25. Philip Anderson said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 4:22 pm

    Although I think of sherbet as a powder (the British sweet, although we don’t call it candy), I knew it was also a Middle Eastern chilled drink. But I had never connected the word with sorbet, which was obviously French. And I’d never heard of shrub.
    While a sorbet doesn’t have the cream that ice cream obviously does, the Portuguese sorvete doesn’t distinguish between them.

  26. Alec Story said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 4:26 pm

    A few years ago I became interested in sherbets (because of my hobby as a dirty and sometimes thirsty historical reenactor) as they arrived in China and did some textual research to find recipes – they mostly date from the Yuan period. At this time they were fruit syrups diluted into hot or cold water to drink.

    I have some of what I found up at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yDFAAnj23I7OZczY9W_CF8UakbtzpcF2gPIL6lovsOY/edit. It's interesting to see the word "sherbet" rendered in several different ways by several different authors (Baxter-Sagart Middle Chinese rimes below):

    攝里白 syep li baek from 居家比用, which is a description of the primary name for this beverage in the text, 渴水 "thirst-water"
    舍兒別 syae nye [probably er by the Yuan] pjet
    舍兒八 syae nye peat
    沙剌必 srae lat pjit

  27. Richard Warmington said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 9:59 pm

    @Jim Breen. Like you, I rarely hear "sherbert" used in the "beer" sense here in Australia, but I think it does exist to some limited extent, and in the UK as well. I believe it's usually used for pseudo-euphemistic comic effect.

    Henry Lawson wrote a poem in which sherbe[r]t is mentioned:
    We took him in to Cairo, we took him to Port Said,
    And gave him canned Australian pork, which, we said, was sheep's head,
    And beer that we called "sherbet" — or something else instead.

    In more recent times, Tracey Spicer wrote "The newsreader’s had ‘a few too many sherbets’." in "Good Girl Stripped Bare" (2017) and Peter Temple wrote "He’s had a few sherbets himself." in the 2nd book of the Jack Irish series, "Black Tide".

    In 2005, the following appeared in an article on the Crikey website: "Syd Sterling [NT Labor MP] fessed up on radio a few years back to being sprung badly on ANZAC Day having had a few too many sherbets and losing his licence."

  28. /df said,

    June 2, 2022 @ 5:59 am

    Today's showing of Minder S10E01 "A Fridge Too Far from early 1994 has shady trader Arthur Daley's beefy nephew Ray (Gary Webster) asking his mates "Are you sure one of you two didn't have one two many sherbets and start mouthing off?" (Actually "didn' 'ave" and "sherbets" rhyming with Bert's). Probably not related, but the Daleys had been in Australia at the end of the previous series.

    The characters in Minder are West Londoners, well out of earshot of Bow, but they would have been quite likely to say "sherbet" for taxi-cab ("sherbet dab", the fizzy powder dabbed onto a lolly — apparently with a liquorice stick it's a fountain, not a dab).

  29. Victor Mair said,

    June 2, 2022 @ 7:58 am

    @Alec Story

    Thank you very much for your precious research on early Chinese references to sherbets.

    If you want to know what Old Mandarin sounded like during the Yuan period and can get your hands on a copy of the following book, it will give you a more accurate idea than Baxter and Sagart's Middle Sinitic:

    1966. The Jongyuan in Yunn: a guide to old Mandarin pronunciation. Yale University, Far Eastern Publications.

  30. Scott P. said,

    June 2, 2022 @ 11:38 am

    “… Captain Cook on his voyages to the Pacific was supplied with lemon juice as a concentrated syrup, with most of the vitamin C unwittingly boiled out in the preparation. …. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the British Admiralty Board introduced lemon juice into the seaman’s diet, where it was usually preserved by mixing with rum. In the mid-nineteenth century lemon juice was largely replaced on British ships with West Indian lime juice. …

    Thus inadvertently losing the benefits of the vitamin C (because limes have less vitamin C, and the juice was prepared in heated copper kettles, that leach what is left out of the drink). The result was that the cure for scurvy was lost:


  31. Ben said,

    June 4, 2022 @ 1:33 am

    My (midwest American) pronunciation of sherbet has undergone vowel harmony: [ʃɚbɚt̚]. I wonder how prevalent that is – it's not a high enough frequency word for me to get a sense of.

  32. Rodger C said,

    June 4, 2022 @ 9:03 am

    Ben, I think that's a very common pronunciation. I blame analogy with "Herbert."

  33. Philip Taylor said,

    June 4, 2022 @ 3:47 pm

    In (Southern) British English, both "Herbert" and "Sherbert" have schwa for the second vowel but a clear (optionally rhotic) /ɜ:/ for the first.

  34. Philip Anderson said,

    June 5, 2022 @ 6:16 pm

    I for one, and Oxford, use /əː/ as in ‘her’ for the first vowel, not the ‘hair’ vowel (followed by a schwa, as is normal).

  35. Philip Taylor said,

    June 6, 2022 @ 2:40 am

    Confused, Philip A — did anyone suggest that the ‘hair’ vowel (/eə ǁ eər/) is used in the first syllable ? My /ɜ:/ is the ‘nurse’ vowel, which to my ear is the same as your ‘her’.

  36. Kate Bunting said,

    June 6, 2022 @ 8:15 am

    I knew of shrub as a drink from references in Dickens' novels. Years ago, when I had a lot of lemon balm growing in my garden, I made 'rum shrub' from a recipe in one of my herb books (it has real lemon in it as well). It can be drunk neat or diluted with lemonade like Pimms.

  37. Michael Watts said,

    June 6, 2022 @ 2:14 pm

    From personal experience I know only the specific term "rainbow sherbert", the ice cream style, which usage would have been known to me in California in the 90s. "Sherbet" would appear to me to be an effort at being fancier than the rubes who refer to "sherbert". I'm not familiar with a use of "sherbert" or "sherbet" outside of the name "rainbow sherbert".

  38. Alexander Browne said,

    June 7, 2022 @ 9:55 am

    @Michael Watts: Exactly the same for me, except in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and we also had orange sherbert. My dad ordered it with vanilla ice cream for the same flavors as a dreamsicle. By now it's been replaced by sorbet at local ice cream shops.

RSS feed for comments on this post