Log in Subscribe

Dollop service

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 12/23/20

Every now and then I use some words in conversation that have somehow snuck into my mental lexicon. Without any knowledge of how I acquired them they intermittently surface and become part of my …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Dollop service


Every now and then I use some words in conversation that have somehow snuck into my mental lexicon. Without any knowledge of how I acquired them they intermittently surface and become part of my verbal or written statements. Their existence is the epitome of my random thoughts. A few examples are words like lexicon, intermittently and epitome.

During the holiday season I seem to frequently use the word dollop. I have no idea when dollop became part of my vocabulary, but I cannot stop using it. It pops up whenever I open a container of sour cream. Actually, many foods wind up as a dollop but “a dollop of sour cream” seems to be the sentence fragment heard often in the holiday kitchen.

Whether plopped on potato pancakes, known to some as latkes, or dropped on a split-open baked potato, a dollop of sour cream is a welcomed addition to a holiday dinner.

The word dollop first appears in English around the middle of the 16th century. Unrelated to food, the East Anglian “dallop” referred to turf, sod or a clump of grass. Those items would not have enhanced the taste of a latke or baked potato unless it was being fed to a cow. Our use of the word dollop came into prominence in 1812. Linguists attribute our usage from the Norwegian word “dolp” which means a lump or glob.

The year 1812 is better known for the war between the United States and the United Kingdom of Britain. Lasting three years and fought over British violations of our maritime rights it ended with the Treaty of Ghent. Over time places like East Anglia and Ghent have diminished in importance. But the dollop has survived.

Though most often associated with sour cream, the dollop is globbed onto many items. Besides the use of sour cream on the aforementioned potato side dishes, whipped cream, shampoo, ice cream, butter, jams and sauces can be dolloped. In fact, any item that can be lumped into a small soft shape can be administered as a dollop.

The term dollop played a part in the development of a popular commercial in the 1950's. One of the most popular hair care products for men was Brylcreem. Squeezed out of a tube, the white dollop was smeared into the hair enabling it to be combed into a greasy slick look that was popular back in those days.

Advertising copywriters like those depicted in the show “Mad Men” scrambled to come up with a catchy jingle for the black and white television commercials. According to Miles Bedford, author of “The History of Hair Gels, Goop and Creams”, the first Brylcreem jingle being considered was “a little dollop'll do you”.

Results from test screenings at focus groups showed that the slogan was too awkward to remember. So, it was back to the drawing board. The ad agency tried to replace the word dollop with drop, squeeze or glob. Eventually they decided on the word dab. So, the jingle “Brylcreem…a little dab'll do you” entered the history books and our collective memory.

Speaking of memory, you might remember my first paragraph of this column mentioning words that somehow become part of my vocabulary only to pop up at random. I included lexicon, intermittently and epitome. Regarding the latter many people when first reading the word epitome assume it is pronounced “ep i tome”.

I made the same error when I first read that word. In fact, epitome is often listed as one of the most mispronounced words in the English language. So, do not fret if you mispronounced it too. Calm down, heat up a slice of Grandma's Christmas apple pie, add a dollop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here