full-fat title "smidgeon", but "smidgen" or indeed "smidgin" are legit alternatives
A smidgeon is a bird, isn't it?
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 …
"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.
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....
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?
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 ?
@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]
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".
1Actually two parses, because your parse is ambiguous, as noted below.
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
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?"
I was always surprised that things actually fitted together.
@ 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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!"
"Are you sure that soup is enough?"
"Aye, but gie's a dod ae breed wi' it."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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?
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019