back to article Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they have defined the smidge

We're obliged to Reg reader Stephen Gunnell for providing a possible answer to the pressing question of how much exactly is a "smidge". To recap, this diminutive measure is a favoured unit in our post-pub nosh neckfiller recipes, as in "a smidge of furikake seasoning" – although we've never defined it scientifically. This …

  1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    full-fat title "smidgeon", but "smidgen" or indeed "smidgin" are legit alternatives

    A smidgeon is a bird, isn't it?

    1. TitterYeNot
      Coat

      "A smidgeon is a bird, isn't it?"

      Yes. It's ancient Northumbrian for a very, very small smoked pigeon.

      And please would people stop quoting the phrase "Blessed are the cheesemakers" when trying to make the Holy Book look silly. Obviously it's not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.

      <Coughs>

      1. AbelSoul
        Trollface

        Re: it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.

        Shuddup, big nose!

      2. chris swain

        Re: manufacturers of dairy products

        Surely only cheese is relevant to pastafarians, or am I getting my holy books mixed up?

  2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Totally wrong!

    A Smidgin is several kg - more or less depending on breakfast time.

    (I suppose I should explain that Smidgin is the name of one of my sweet little pussycats - who is rather under-sized following a difficult birth - I'd upload a piccie but ElReg doesn't do piccies)

    I actually have a theory that the word is actually "Smidgín" and is derived from the Gaelic -een endings for a small thing. Probably totally wrong....

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Totally wrong!

      Pen-y-gors, the closest approximation to your theory would likely be smidín, a diminutive form of “breath” or “puff”. The OED notes that ‘“smidgen” (under that spelling for the headword) is

      orig. and chiefly U.S. Also smidgeon, smidgin, smitchin, etc. [Origin unknown, perh. f. smitch sb.² + -en, -in, repr. dial. pronunc. of -ing¹: cf. prec.]
      I think that your theory could apply to “smithereen” as coming from smidirín (“a small fragment”), though. Perhaps there was an intermediate English form “smidgereen” at some point?

  3. Unep Eurobats
    Meh

    I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

    I've never heard anyone refer to a tad of something.

    1. Phuq Witt
      Headmaster

      Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

      "...I've never heard anyone refer to a tad of something..."

      Me neither. Surely 'tad' is an adverb. As in "It's a tad strange to use tad as a noun"

      1. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

        No - its definately a noun - and a tad more common than you think.

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

      I think it comes from the French "tas de", which would roughly translate to a "pile of".

      Tas de chose = A pile of things.

      Tas de merde = A pile of shit.

      The pronunciation is almost exactly the same as the English "tad".... due to the French habit of not articulating .

      You have honestly never heard anyone say "just a tad bit more"... Do you live across the pond ?

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

        I use tad all the time, as in "I'll have a tad more gin in that G&T please"

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

          Yup. Much used in the Haines household in the "tad more milk in that tea, ta" context.

          1. Phuq Witt
            Headmaster

            Tad more...

            @Khaptain, @James Hughes 1, @Lester Haines

            "...I'll have a tad more gin in that G&T please..."

            "...just a tad bit more..."

            "...tad more milk in that tea, ta..."

            That's not necessarily disagreeing with what I said.

            In "a tad more" tad is acting as an qualifier [adverb?*] for "more". Would any of your respective households use a tad on its own? eg. "I'll have a tad of <something>"

            "...You have honestly never heard anyone say "just a tad bit more"... Do you live across the pond ?..."

            Across the smaller pond. We'd say "a wee dhrop more", or "a wee taste more" where I come from.

            [*I might not mean adverb. My knowledge of the more obscure parts of English grammar is a bit rusty]

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: Tad more...

              @Phuq Witt

              Nae sweat, ah ken whaur yer comin fae.

            2. chris swain

              Re: Tad more...

              @ Phuq Wit

              Sorry but I can see tad working in that context, as in:

              'Would you like a whisky?'

              'Ooh, go on then, just a tad'

              Obviously on the other side of the small pond (or the larger one come to that) one should use whiskey.

            3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: Tad more...

              What I think you're saying is that tad is only used as a relative rather than absolute amount, eg:

              Tad of gin in my G&T = wrong

              Tad *more* gin in my G&T = correct

            4. Alister Silver badge

              @ Phuq Wit Re: Tad more...

              Round here, we definitely use tad on it's own, as Ben Bonsall above showed:

              "You're late!"

              "Just a tad".

              "Do you want some dessert?"

              Yes, but just a tad, please".

            5. PNGuinn Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Tad more...

              If we're going to bring the left pondians into this ... and turn the poor innocent word into a ... VERB ...

              Anyways - getting down to the root of the matter - what's a tad in approved el REG measurements? Officially is it a measure of volume or weight?

            6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Tad more...

              In "a tad more" tad is acting as an qualifier [adverb?*] for "more".

              That's only one possible parse.1 English grammar is not deterministic.

              You can indeed parse it as a noun or adjectival phrase, where:

              - "more" is acting as a noun or pronoun (it's ambiguous in this context), and "tad" is an adjective modifying it; or

              - "more" is acting as a simple or nominal adjective, and "tad" is an adverb modifying it

              However, you can also parse it as a noun phrase where "tad" is a noun. Consider the parallel construction "I'll need an acre more to build my sovereign-citizen compound"; in "an acre more", "acre" is clearly a noun. The noun phrase "an acre" is acting as an adjectival phrase, modifying "more", which is acting as a noun, and the compound noun phrase "an acre more" is the direct object of the verb "need".

              On the other hand, consider "I'll need an acre more or less to build...": here the most probable parse is that "more or less" is an adjectival phrase modifying noun phrase "an acre", which is the direct object of "need".

              Similar parses can be constructed around similar phrases employing "tad".

              HTH. HAND.

              1Actually two parses, because your parse is ambiguous, as noted below.

            7. Pookietoo

              Re: Tad more...

              A tad is a "little bit", just like a "wee drop".

          2. chris swain

            Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

            @ Lester Haines: I preferred 'tad more gin', priorities and all that.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

              'tad more gin'

              In the case of Gin, the term is dollop, as in "A dollop more please"

      2. Greg J Preece

        Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

        You have honestly never heard anyone say "just a tad bit more"... Do you live across the pond ?

        "A tad more" I have heard many times, being raised in Yorkshire, but "a tad bit more" makes me think you've been mishearing "tidbit".

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Ben Bonsall

      Re: I'll take these with 0.3125ml of salt

      We've been thrown off course just a tad.

      What's that mean?

      In space terms, about 70 million miles...

      </quote>

  4. kdh0009

    Damn, where's the science?

    I was hoping for some explanation of a study into how they arrived at these measurements.

    Instead they went for the massively imaginative method of dividing a well known measurement by an integer (worse a standard series of integers).

    Zero points for effort.

    1. chris swain

      Re: Damn, where's the science?

      Not sure why you got a downvote so I've given you an upvote to cancel it out.

      I'd like to see reference measures of these very important units stored alongside the official kilogram.

  5. Snivelling Wretch

    Reg Standards

    For anyone who is confused by this, a smidge is therefore 900 micrograpefruits, or 1.9 milliwalnuts http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

    1. Lis 0r

      Re: Reg Standards

      But how many grapenuts?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Reg Standards

        Grapes have nuts? So all grapes are male? Or just some grapes have them and some don't? We need a grapeologist or something like that.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Reg Standards

          "Grapes have nuts? So all grapes are male? Or just some grapes have them and some don't? We need a grapeologist or something like that."

          Have you never heard of seedless grapes you heathen?

  6. David Robinson 1

    Smidgeon as a unit of length

    When I were a lad, I used to help out my dad in his business. He and his regular employee had a rather mixed system of measurements.

    "It's one metre, six inches and a smidgeon."

    "Big smidgeon or little smidgeon?"

    "Little."

    I was always surprised that things actually fitted together.

    1. John 110

      Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

      @ David Robinson 1

      In this context, a smidgeon is obviously defined as "up to that mark ont' ruler where I caught it wi' me saw; the one not quite halfway between 3/10th and 4/10th of an inch on this here ruler in me pocket"

      My dad measured things like that as well...

      1. Bluto Nash

        Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

        @ John 110 & David Robinson 1

        As a dad, I can vouch for the fact that we ALL measure like that. Especially when dealing with helpers that are both related and younger, aka our kids.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

      In his book "About the Size of It" - Warwick Cairns explores the way that measuring units everywhere have origins connected with the body or familiar things.

      The eponymous foot is obvious. A thumb width is about an inch spacing. A hand is four inches or 10cms. A yard is the tip of your nose to the tip of your extended arm - or a walking stick from hip to ground.. A fathom is the distance between two outstretched arms. A furlong is as far as you, or your oxen, can go at full power before needing a breather. A (Roman) mile is a thousand paces (two thousand steps). A league is the distance you can walk in about an hour. An acre (French journal) - a day's work at the plough.

      Uniform sized seeds were also references - like a barleycorn for small lengths or as the weight measure of a "grain".

      Not sure that there is standardised gnat's cod - but obviously a distance at the limit of 20/20 vision. Possibly something that can be felt to be out of tolerance but not conventionally measurable.

    3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

      So is the difference between a big smidgeon and a little smidgeon about a kerf and thus depend on the saw blade?

    4. kmac499

      Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

      The precise engineering term for a very small mismatch in sizes is "the Gnats Dick"..

      This unit of measure often appears when refitting replacement parts on cars, or in home woodworking projects.

      It can usually be rectified by a shim, a file or a bloody big hammer. I never got the hang of shimming and filing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

        RCH...Royal C*nt Hair

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

          cf: gee hair (not sure if I've spelt gee correctly, pronounced with a hard G as in git, not soft like german only ever heard it spoken) a popular measurement unit in Dublin according to a friend from thereabouts, although possibly archaic as said friend is getting on a bit.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

          RCH...Royal C*nt Hair

          Around these parts where I am, it's Red C*nt Hair. It's more precise as different royals have different colored (and thus thickness) of hair. Need more research and beer verify......

          1. Roq D. Kasba

            Re: brummagem screwdriver

            Ah Brum,

            Seeing as we're so far away from any useful topic anyway...

            I heard a couple of Brummie builders at work when I lived there - one asked the other for the 'bubblestick' - the best word ever for a spirit level. Needless to say, I've never forgotten it, and now think in terms of needing a bubblestick to level stuff.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

        Bloody big hammer? Surely you mean a brummagem screwdriver?

        1. moiety

          Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

          Bloody big hammer? Surely you mean a brummagem screwdriver?

          I call mine "the fine-tuner". Also heard (here on El Reg) as them being referred to as "Service Pack Zero" which I quite like as well.

          1. PNGuinn Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length @ moiety

            In one Test Gear department I worked in many moons ago - Avo Calibrator.

            El reg - we need a BBH icon.

      3. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

        The precise engineering term for a very small mismatch in sizes is "the Gnats Dick"..

        Or round here, "Gnat's Cock", although the polite version is "Gnat's Whisker".

        A mate of mine used to call a small set of engineering micrometers the gnatscockometer...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

          The correct term is Gnat's Widget.

      4. Kernel

        Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

        A Gnat's Cock doesn't qualify as precision engineering - it only truly qualifies as precision when working to tolerances of 1/2 and 1/4 Gnat's Cocks.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Smidgeon as a unit of length

          I always heard it as 'a gnat's pisser' as in "he came within half a gnat's pisser of scraping the boss's bmw"

          The concept seems to be very familiar though. I'd be fascinated at a book (or article) on such measurement units. RCH is new to me, but will become much used, I feel

  7. Ged T
    Joke

    Thank you, Cheesers

    ...for saving us...

  8. Seanmon

    Next..

    Can we have a similar definition of the Scottish "dod" please?

    1. AbelSoul

      Re: definition of the Scottish "dod"

      Around my neck of the Caledonian woods, it equates to roughly the same amount as a bit and I can at least confirm that it is substantially more than a smidgeon, as in:

      "She skelped him aroon' the heid wi' a dod ae wid and he's been doolally ever since!"

      or:

      "Are you sure that soup is enough?"

      "Aye, but gie's a dod ae breed wi' it."

      etc.

  9. Chemist

    "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

    Just use a 0.15625ml jug (brimmed - depending on what sort of meniscus dry furikake has)

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

      Fair enough, but we'll have to consider the furikake meniscus first...

      1. AbelSoul
        Trollface

        Re: Furikake Meniscus....

        I like it - in fact I even like saying it!

        It would make a good name for a baddie:

        "It's Meniscus!"

        "Hairikake Meniscus?"

        "No, his wee brother, Furikake."

        "Bollox, we're doomed!"

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

        Seems to me that teh metrics make this fairly easy to calculate. Just mill out a cubic 0.15625cm hollow into the material of your choice. If you can't manage the math, that's a hair over 0.052cm on a side. No meniscus in dry measurement, just scoop, swipe & dump, so no worries there.

        Strangely enough, the smallest standard hex-key in 0.052 inches. Coincidence? I think not. It's all a grand conspiracy, clearly.

        1. Chemist

          Re: "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

          "No meniscus in dry measurement, just scoop, swipe & dump, so no worries there."

          Very sorry jake - being teetotal (I wish) I assumed dry furikake was a cocktail hence a liquid.

      3. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

        Why not just a "level/heaped smidge"? That would be easy with the wee spoons in the photo.

    2. kmac499

      Re: "........ consider how to translate 0.15625ml to a dry measure of furikake"

      To channel Brian :-

      "It's not a meniscus it's an angle of repose."

      from the gospel of materials handling 101

  10. NotWorkAdmin

    I reckon I can cope with the antics of....

    Microsoft

    Apple

    Google

    Starbucks

    ISIS

    The Tories

    But this, this is intolerable. I must protest.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Happy

      Re: I reckon I can cope with the antics of....

      Oh, shuttup, Big Nose!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where oh where can I buy a set of these cheesy measuring spoons ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They should put some vulture-branded ones on El Reg

    2. PNGuinn Silver badge
      Coat

      Where can I buy a set of these cheesy measuring spoons?

      Australia, it would appear. But It'll do you no good at all Bruce - they're made upside down for use down under.

      Thanks - its the one with the corks in the pocket.

    3. Carpe Pesce

      Here is where you can get these fine impliments.

      http://www.thecheesemaker.com.au/mini-measure-spoons/

      Along with the relationships to the standard tea spoon.

    4. jake Silver badge

      @AC "10 hrs" (whatever that means, ElReg ...)

      "Where oh where can I buy a set of these cheesy measuring spoons ?"

      Locally, you can get a variation on the theme from "Sign Of The Bear" in Sonoma, California. Brand is "R.S.V.P.", product line is "Endurance". I've used the non-whimsical variations for my dry measurement cooking needs for well over a decade. Can probably find same at a cooking store near you.

  12. cyrus
    Trollface

    Ha!

    Grapes don't have nuts, silly.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Cyrus (was: Re: Ha!)

      If you wander out behind the tourist portion of Sebastiani in Sonoma (Forth Street East & Lovell Valley Road), you'll discover about two acres of dirt parking lot. Roughly in the middle of that lot, you'll find a carpet of grape nuts ... leftover from moving the wine off the solids. The plonk goes one way, the compost goes another, and the seeds (nuts) are left behind.

  13. Oengus Silver badge

    Available here

    I actually have a set of these precisely for cheese making.

    In the colonies down under they are available on-line here http://greenlivingaustralia.com.au/mini-measuring-spoons

  14. Schultz
    Boffin

    Does this mean ...

    that I have to replace all my non-standard teaspoons with proper 5 ml ones? How come those non-standard teaspoons are sold anyways? Somebody should regulate this issue -- but maybe the standards body is a tad preoccupied with repairing their meth lab.

  15. jake Silver badge

    Whimsical measuring spoons are nothing new.

    I bought my first set in English Silver, hallmarked 1879, in an antique shop that used to be on the corner of Westmoreland St. & Regent Parade in Harrogate, Yorkshire back in about 1980. I've been collecting them ever since. My oldest set is whittled out of cherry wood, and seems to have been made in New England in about 1700.

  16. Hennamay

    Now we understand about little bits of stuff

    What about wet stuff? Surely when cooking with wine some of it might go in the food, but how much is a splash, a slooshe a splodge. Does it depend on how much is left in the bottle once the cook has finished taking their quota?

    And then of course there is the strength of the brew to consider. Is gnats wee weaker or stronger than maidens water?

    Are we using a Knockometer (Sledgehammer ) to crack a nut?

  17. Bluto Nash

    "Blessed are the cheesemakers"

    Because they make CHEESE, if for no other reason.

    Lordy. Priorities, people.

  18. Nick Pettefar

    And available at Amazon.co.uk!

  19. Dave Stevens
    Meh

    Drop

    Technically, there's 60 drops in a teaspoon.

    That seems a lot too me. I don't think I can actually fit 60 drops of anything in a single teaspoon.

    1. Fraggle850

      Re: Drop

      That sounds like a good starting point but how big is a drop? Presumably, based off 5ml/60 drops=0.08333ml?

      Although I suspect that the size of an actual, physical drop depends on viscosity and surface tension of the liquid being dropped?

  20. Detective Emil

    Mandatory Pratchett reference

    'Smidgen?' said the signaller, slowly. 'I don't think I know a code for smidgen…'

    (Truckers, 1989)

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