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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC

  • Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Rob.

  • In this programme, we're talking about biscuits!

  • Biscuits - a subject very close to my heart -

  • something important to me and that interests me.

  • I know, Rob. You are a biscuit connoisseur after

  • all. And in the UK, many of us love to nibble

  • on these sweet treats. And we have lots of

  • names for them too.

  • Yes, we have the chocolate digestive, the

  • garibaldi, the custard cream and the jammie

  • dodger. It's making my mouth water.

  • I can see. But we're not going to be

  • tucking into any biscuits today.

  • Instead, we'll be looking at the origins

  • and the language of this humble

  • snack. And before we do that, Rob,

  • let's test your knowledge of biscuits

  • with a question. The British aren't the

  • only fans of biscuits. So in which country

  • are barazeks traditionally eaten?

  • Is it in... a) Syria, b) Morocco, or c)Spain?

  • Hmmm, well, I have not eaten one, but I'll

  • have a guess at Syria.

  • OK, I'll reveal the right answer later on.

  • But now, let's talk more about biscuits,

  • also sometimes known as cookies.

  • They come in all shapes, sizes

  • and varieties.

  • They can be sweet or savoury - but

  • I prefer the sweet ones that are crisp,

  • crunchy and are good for dunking

  • in my tea. 'Dunking' means dipping into

  • liquid for a short period of time.

  • But enough about your eating habits,

  • Rob. Let's find out how the biscuit got

  • its name. It's something the BBC

  • Radio 4 programme Word of Mouth has

  • been exploring. Dr Laura Wright, a

  • historical linguist from the University of

  • Cambridge, explains its origins...

  • From Latin 'biscoctum' - twice cooked.

  • And it comes to us via Anglo-Norman French,

  • but it's bread that's been cooked twice to

  • extract all the moisture so that it goes hard,

  • and it'll stay fit for consumption for a

  • long time, which is why you can take it to sea

  • and have a sea biscuit... and from the

  • 1500 at least we spelt it like it sounds 'bisket'

  • but at some point, in the 1800, we started to

  • prefer the French spelling for

  • reasons of poncy-ness!

  • So, the English word for biscuits has its origins

  • in Latin. It describes cooking bread twice to

  • make it hard. This baking process meant a

  • biscuit could be kept for a long time, and as

  • Dr Wright said, it would stay fit for consumption

  • - another way of saying edible or able

  • to be eaten.

  • That's why they were taken on long

  • sea voyages - but they weren't like the

  • biscuits we eat now - they were plain,

  • simple and very hard baked.

  • Interestingly, the word biscuit used to

  • be spelt B-I-S-K-E-T but the French

  • spelling B-I-S-C-U-I-T was later adopted.

  • Biscuits are a handy go-to snack for

  • when I'm hungry or bored. But how

  • did biscuits become such a popular

  • foodstuff and how did we come to

  • depend on them so much?

  • It's something Anastasia Edwards, author

  • of Biscuits and Cookies, A Global History,

  • talked about in the Word of Mouth

  • programme. Listen to the word she uses

  • to mean 'food' in her explanation.

  • One key fact in the rise in the popularity

  • of the biscuit is meal times. Before the

  • Industrial Revolution, people have a later

  • breakfast and earlier supper. By the

  • end of the Industrial Revolution,

  • breakfast is much earlier, the

  • evening meal is much later, so you've

  • got this big gap of time where people

  • need sustenance, and so lunch comes

  • to greater prominence and tea time

  • comes to greater prominence, and

  • snacking - so there's this great

  • opportunity for biscuits - something

  • small, something ready, something

  • easily consumable, not expensive,

  • you know, a bit of a sugar rush.

  • Right, so it was the Industrial Revolution

  • that led to the rise - that's the increase -

  • in the popularity of biscuits. Because

  • the time between breakfast and dinner

  • in the evening increased, people got

  • hungry and they needed food to give

  • them energy - what Anastasia

  • called 'sustenance'.

  • So, this is when smaller meals, such as

  • lunch or tea, became important or

  • more well-known - it had greater

  • prominence. And this included snacking

  • on biscuits. These were cheap and

  • easily consumable - easy and

  • quick to eat. And because of their

  • ingredients, they gave you a

  • sugar rush - a quick blast of energy.

  • Of course, now, we eat biscuits

  • at any time, and because of their

  • sugar content, we know to only eat

  • them in moderation Rob!

  • I think a packet a day is fine - but

  • a whole box, well, that would

  • really take the biscuit!

  • Take the biscuit! Good idiom

  • there, Rob, to mean 'be the most foolish,

  • annoying or surprising thing to do'.

  • But now let s find out the answer to

  • my quiz question. Earlier, I asked

  • which country are barazeks

  • traditionally eaten in?

  • And I thought Syria. Was I right?

  • Yes, you were. Well done.

  • You are a smart cookie! Barazeks

  • are biscuits filled with roasted sesame

  • seeds and pistachio chips.

  • They sound delicious. I would love to try some.

  • OK, well we've been discussing the

  • language of biscuits and mentioned

  • some of these words. 'Dunking' describes

  • dipping something, like a biscuit, into

  • liquid for a short period of time.

  • Describing something as being fit

  • for consumption means it is edible -

  • which is another one of our words

  • and means 'it can be eaten'.

  • 'Sustenance' is another word for food.

  • And something that has 'prominence'

  • is important or more well-known.

  • And when you get a 'sugar rush', you

  • get a quick blast of energy from,

  • unsurprisingly, eating something

  • containing lots of sugar.

  • OK, well, we only get six minutes for

  • this programme - that's the way the

  • cookie crumbles - so we're out of time.

  • Bye for now.

  • Goodbye.

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC

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B1 biscuit rob eaten programme syria industrial revolution

The language of biscuits - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/04/08
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