Could somebody please explain this one to me. I am a Brit - Sherbert implies a “Basset’s Sherbert Fountain”. For you yanks, this is a white, powdery, sugary substance that one eats with a liquorice ‘straw’. In America, Sherbet (notice the spelling) means something close to sorbet.
An argument occured recently whereby the protaganist (an American) said that the US spelling of ‘sherbert’ was thus. However, the contender won when doing a practical survey of US ice cream vendors. It is quite clear that the US uses the spelling ‘sherbet’ more than ‘sherbert’. My questions are really about where these words come from, how they are connected and why there is a difference. Anyone have an idea?
“Sherbert” originally did refer to a sweet fruit drink.
While the turks used it generically to mean “drink,” to the europeans, the association was with sweetness and fruit. (The word “syrup” shares the same etymological roots.) So while sorbetto was originally a sweetened fruit drink, when you’ve got this new icey treat, sweetened and flavoured with fruit, what would you call it except an iced sorbetto?
It’ll always be sorbet to me, though – “Sherbert” just sounds like your creepy uncle who never leaves his apartment. You wacky Americans.
Don’t want to incite a ‘wacky american’ discussion too much (they are a little too easy). Nobody has actually ANSWERED the questions yet…sorry to be so difficult but this really is a very contentious subject where I am.
Larry - I don’t think that this should become a discussion about your lecherous uncle. There are plenty of other great sites for that.
"*The evolution of a drinking species
By Andrew Masterson
March 12 2002
News in The Age last week revealed that a mob of vervet monkeys in the Caribbean have developed a taste for alcohol. Research indicates that most are social drinkers, liking a wee tipple now and then, although others hit it hard and often, while a few abstain with supercilious looks on their hairy little faces.
Given that the vervets share 96 per cent of their DNA with human beings, it might be asked why they haven’t been hitting the slosh for millennia. After all, they have opposable thumbs and ready access to rotting fruit. As our species proves, given such a combination it should be only a matter of time before they concoct a Midori Illusion, or at least a passable chablis.
Such speculation, however, rests upon the assumption that we humans have “always” liked a sherbet or two. Certainly, alcohol use can be verified as far back as 3000 BCE, but some anthropologists believe that for several thousand years before that, at least in Europe, we were resolutely and unavoidably sober…*"
That was from the Melbourne Age.
I have no idea why sherbet is used this way. If I can work it out I’ll let you know. My Macquarie Dictionary just says colloq., which is unhelpful.
There’s a commonality in all the things that the word and its variants are applied to.
If you are asking if there’s a distinction between “sherbet” and “sherbert”, the answer seems to be “no”, in any practical sense. It’s just a word that has more than one accepted spelling. It would be nice, since there are multiple spellings and multiple meanings, if we could agree to distribute them sensibly, and say, for instance, “From this day forward ‘sherbert’ will refer to a fizzy drink, while ‘sherbet’ will be reserved for fruity ices,” but unfortunately, ANSI dropped the ball on this one.
The intrusive -r- in the nonstandard form sherbert is from a phonological process called “assimilation.” The r in the 1st syllable produced an echo of itself in the 2nd syllable, maybe because both syllables had similar vowels.
There’s also the opposite process of “dissimilation,” in which the same sounds repeated in a word become different.
The Arabic root sh-r-b also gave us the words syrup and shrub from the word sharâb (that’s shrub in the sense of a drink, not the sense of “little Bush” which is of a different origin).