The other day I was watching the last episode of the Parkinson Show (a UK talk show), when Michael Caine told a story about the origin of the word marmalade. The word refers to a jelly like preserve, usually made of citrus fruits, in which bits of the fruit and rind are suspended.
According to Michael Caine, the name comes into the English language via Mary Queen of Scots, who was visiting a French speaking country and fell ill. Marmalade was one of the dishes they brought to tempt her palate – and the phrase she overheard constantly was ‘Ma’am est malade’ (Madam is ill) which gave the name marmalade (and which, incidentally) is a great way to remember the correct spelling of the word.
So I set out to find out if this could be true. Disappointingly, the etymological dictionaries tell a different tale. The word marmalade meant quince jam and comes into English via French and Portuguese, deriving from ‘marmelo’ meaning quince. Further back, the origin is Latin and Greek, from terms meaning honey-apple, which was the fruit resulting from the grafting of an apple onto a quince.
The mystery is solved, but I can’t help preferring Michael Caine’s version. 😉