Ponto
Posted: 25 September 2008 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]
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While researching for a blog post on an obscure method of beer fermentation (yeah, but some people like to read it), I tried to find out the origins of the word “ponto”, which is a particular sort of brewing vessel.

To my surprise, although the word is in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, and found in various brewing publications, it’s not in the OED, or at least I can’t find it.

My guess, as I say on my site, is that the name ponto “comes from the resemblance of the wooden lip sticking out from the top of the vessel to the end of a pontoon or punt” - see a picture of pontos about half way down the post. But that’s only a WAG - anybody got any ideas?

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Posted: 25 September 2008 03:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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My brick and mortar OED sent me round and round.  Ponto led me to punto which led me to pontil and punty.  The basic meaning of these that may be applicable to beer vessels is that of an iron rod used to hold the glass in glass blowing or a round hollow on a glass object used to remove the mark left by breaking the glass off from the punty-rod.  Dunno if this helps or is merely somehow, at best, tangential to your goal.

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Posted: 25 September 2008 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Looking at the engravings on your site, I see the wooden lips of the pontos look like tiny bridges. The Latin word for “bridge” is pons, stem pont-, and the Lewis and Short show ponto as a floating (pontoon) bridge.  I feel pretty confident that this is the basic origin of the word, although I can’t guess its path from Latin to English.

[ Edited: 25 September 2008 05:05 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 26 September 2008 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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ponto means “point” in Portuguese. Maybe this system of brewing was orignally a Portuguese invention.
Ponto Baggins is the name of a character out of Tolkien. Maybe the brewing system is out of Tolkien as well.
“Ponto” is a name sometimes given to dogs by their British patrons. Maybe the original inventive brewer led a dog’s life.

However, given the well-known British talent for mangling words borrowed from other people’s languages (vingt-et-un = “pontoon” ;-), I would say Dr. Techie’s suggestion (starting with “a bridge” = ponte in italian) is more plausible than any of the above.

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Posted: 26 September 2008 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A punto or pontil is the iron rod used in glassmaking. This is the source of the punt at the bottom of bottles. It’s a possibility, but I’m assuming that the brewing pontos are not made of glass, so it doesn’t seem all that likely a source. I guess the origin in pontoon or punt will probably turn out to be the correct one.

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Posted: 26 September 2008 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo--
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know--or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so--
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim’s especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn’t gone a yard when--Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted “Hi!”

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
Ponto!” he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion’s name),
Ponto!” he cried, with angry Frown,
“Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!”
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper’s Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:--
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, “Well--it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!”
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James’s miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

—Hilaire Belloc

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Posted: 24 December 2009 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks to the wonders of Google Books (when it’s good, it’s fantastic) I have found that a 19th century American brewer, Taylor’s of Albany, New York, used the same brewing method that English brewers called pontos, which he had evidently copied from a London brewer whose brewery stood on the site where the Royal Festival Hall sits today - but in Albany the vessels with the peculiar wooden lips were called pontoons. Of course, Taylor might have misheard what the English said to him and got the name wrong, taking the wrong word back with him to Leftpondia, but it’s some small evidence that ponto=pontoon. If anybody is at all interested, you can see a picture of Taylor’s pontoons/pontos here.

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