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Spun sugar treat - what is it called? 
Posted: 09 July 2007 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello, I recently read a book in which the author had a character who had lived in London during WW2 use the words “candy floss” to describe the spun sugar treat given to children.  I queried this usage with her and she replied that she had heard it used.  I thought that the treat was described as ‘fairy floss’ in the UK.  I also did not think that any English person in WW2 or later would have used the word ‘candy’.

Can anyone shed any light on the usage of any or all of these words?  I know it is called ‘cotton candy’ in the USA.  But as we all know, they didn’t really invent English, just think they did. 

Regards
Irene

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Posted: 09 July 2007 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Welcome to the board, Irene.

As an Englishman I can confirm that we do indeed call it candy floss. The word candy is used here although it has more specific meanings than in the US, ie hard-boiled sweets are often called candies.

Here’s the first cite in OED for the term, from the London Times

1952 Times 2 Oct. 6/2 They could not solve problems of foreign policy on a diet of rhetorical candy floss

It’s surprisingly late, and the figurative usage here shows that the word is certainly older than this.

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Posted: 09 July 2007 09:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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MW3: <<candy floss ... 1 chiefly Britain : COTTON CANDY>>

Google Books shows many instances in a UK context although reliable dating is usually not possible. I also see it in US, Australian, and other contexts. “Fairy floss” is apparently synonymous but less frequent (at a glance).

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Posted: 09 July 2007 09:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Whether or not we invented English, we DID invent the cotton candy machine. :) And apparently, when we did, we called the confection Fairy Floss.

Wikipedia, has an entry on cotton candy, with some interesting external links: the Food Timeline has a few cited sources (patents, food journals, etc) and “candy” seems to be pretty standard at the outset—including in the patent of the folks who coined “fairy floss.”

And as far as American use, I would say most would use candy to describe any sort of “sweet,” but maybe less so if purely chocolate.

[ Edited: 09 July 2007 09:25 PM by JDayne ]
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Posted: 10 July 2007 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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We call it ‘candy floss’ in NZ. You’re in Australia, right Irene? What’s it called there?

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Posted: 10 July 2007 01:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I remember “candy floss” as being invariably on sale at funfairs in the late 1950s and ‘60s in SE England where I lived. I never heard any other name for it, nor did I hear “candy” used in any other confectionery-related sense. In fact when I was small I don’t think I had any idea what the word meant; it was just a name for this particular sugary stuff.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Never heard ‘fairy floss’ at all - always candy floss. Called that to this day.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 03:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’ll be darned—I realize I hadn’t known anything about the word candy, and now (having checked the OED) I do.

[a. F. candi in sucre candi; cf. It. zucchero candi [...], med.L. saccharum candi; a. Arab., orig. Pers. qand sugar, the crystallized juice of the sugar-cane (whence Arab. qandah candy, qandi candied); of Indian origin, cf. Skr. khanda ‘piece’, also ‘sugar in crystalline pieces’, f. khand to break. As in the other langs., the full SUGAR CANDY (q.v.) appears much earlier than the simple candy.]

1. Crystallized sugar, made by repeated boiling and slow evaporation, more fully called SUGAR CANDY; also any confection made of, or incrusted with this. (In U.S. used more widely than in Great Britain, including toffee, and the like.)
[c1420 Liber Cocorum 7 With sugur candy thou may hit dowce. 1543 TRAHERON tr. Vigo’s Chirurg. Interpr. Straunge Wds., A syrupe they calle sugre candie.] 1769 MRS. RAFFALD Eng. Housekpr. 241 To a pound of double refined sugar put two spoonfuls of water, skim it well, and boil it almost to a candy, when it is cold, drain your plums out of the first syrup, and put them in the thick syrup. 1808-17 FOSTER in Life & Corr. (1846) I. lxxv. 410 Handing round candies and cowslip wine. 1844 EMERSON Young Amer. Wks. (Bohn) II. 302 One man buys.. a land title.. and makes his posterity princes; and the other buys barley candy. [...]

I can’t say “barley candy” sounds particularly appetizing…

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Posted: 10 July 2007 03:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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languagehat - 10 July 2007 03:12 AM

I can’t say “barley candy” sounds particularly appetizing…

Oh, you’ve been missing out if you’ve never had barley sugars!

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Posted: 10 July 2007 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 10 July 2007 01:42 AM

I remember “candy floss” as being invariably on sale at funfairs in the late 1950s and ‘60s in SE England where I lived. I never heard any other name for it, nor did I hear “candy” used in any other confectionery-related sense. In fact when I was small I don’t think I had any idea what the word meant; it was just a name for this particular sugary stuff.

Yes, I should elaborate. When I said in my last post that hard-boiled sweets in the UK are often called candies, I should have said ‘were sometimes’. I’m thinking of the old confectionery shops with their candy canes, bulls eyes, glacier mints, etc. When I think of candy it’s these hard sugary sweets that come to mid, as opposed to the Mars bars, Snickers, Milky Ways et al, which are never referred to as candies here.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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We still have candy floss in the north of England as they do in South Africa.
Ag pleez Deddy

Popcorn, chewing gum, peanuts and bubble gum
Ice cream, candy floss and Eskimo Pie

(I cited this a couple of times on the old board).

We say “sweets” not “candy” in the north.  The OED’s first citation of candy floss is 1951.  I’d have thought it was earlier, so maybe I’ve missed something.  I’ve never heard of fairy floss. 

Floss is what I use to clean in-between* my teeth.  Dental floss is recorded from 1936.

*I wasn’t sure how to write this, but according to the OED it’s hyphenated.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Floss is what I use to clean in-between* my teeth.  Dental floss is recorded from 1936.

*I wasn’t sure how to write this, but according to the OED it’s hyphenated.

Only when used as a noun or quasi-noun, e.g., “1815 JANE AUSTEN Emma I. iii, Busy..talking and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens,” or as a quasi-adjective ("an in-between layer of chiffon").  The OED doesn’t seem to document the ordinary prepositional and adverbial use of the phrase (a glaring omission), but the editors themselves don’t hyphenate it when using at as you have here.  See for instance their definition of “atween”.

[ Edited: 10 July 2007 09:51 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 10 July 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Interesting, Eliza. In this usage, I have a feeling that I would say it exactly as you have, but upon reflection, I can’t say why I would choose in between as opposed to simply between. I suppose it’s a matter of emphasis. Stuff gets in between my teeth, but I get between this and that.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 09:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Languagehat, I’ve always known the “crystalized sugar” to be known as “Rock Candy”.  We used to make it in 5th grade science class.

Whitefang

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Posted: 10 July 2007 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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That set me to wondering about the song “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” and I found this in Wikipedia:

The song was first recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock, also known as Haywire Mac. It is probably best remembered for its recording by Burl Ives in 1949, but it has been recorded by many artists throughout the world. The most popular version, recorded in 1960 by Dorsey Burnette, reached the Billboard top ten.

According to the song, anything that a homeless man would fear is rendered harmless. The dogs have rubber teeth, the police have wooden legs, and the jail bars are made of tin.

Before recording the song, McClintock cleaned it up considerably from the version he sang as a street busker in 1897. Originally the song described a child being recruited into hobo life by tales of the “big rock candy mountain”. Such recruitment actually occurred, with hobos enchanting children with tales of adventure called ghost stories by other hobos. In proof of his authorship of the song, McClintock published the original words, the last verse of which was:

The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
And said to the jocker, “Sandy,
I’ve hiked and hiked and wandered too,
But I ain’t seen any candy.
I’ve hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
And I’ll be damned if I hike any more
To be buggered sore like a hobo’s whore
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

According to the wiki article, there are several Rock Candy Mountains in the States, so is the one in the song named after one of them or is it a drug-related expression?

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Posted: 11 July 2007 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It’s been “candy floss” here in Zild for at least the last 40 years, although I think it may be called something else on the penal side of the Tasman.

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