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http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-000004143jan16.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dworld

quote:
The American-style pretzel was invented by a 16th century German monk as a reward for children who memorized their prayers, La Repubblica newspaper said. The word derives from the Latin prex, or prize, it said.

Leave it to the British tabloids to challenge the Italians on Latin. London's Daily Mail declared that the word "pretzel" comes from pretiola--Latin for "little reward." The dough is folded to look like a child's arms in prayer, and the three holes represent Christianity's holy Trinity.



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bufungla
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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bookachow

There seem to be various different theories, all listed on the link above. The consensus seems to be that the folded arms/reward-in-Latin story is probably the origin (around 610AD), although there are also stories about a German baker who was to be acquitted by a judge if he "could make a small cake through which the sun could shine three times", and also a story claiming it was of German origin and of German origin and was originally shaped like the letter "B" for the German word for the food, "bretzel." This site has a version which combines several of the stories.

buf 'looks like a job for Kathy B.' ungla

--------------------
"Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."

George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra


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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Ack, beaten to the pretzel apocrypha.

You know, The Scotsman and The Guardian mentioned that yesterday. (And it sounds a lot like one version of the rumored origin of candy canes, doesn't it?)

For what it's worth -- in addition to theories posed above -- a post to rec.food.cooking mentions that Kloser's and Krauß's seminal work, Die Brez'l: Geschichte & Geschichten, holds that "[t]he pretzel was known since the 5th century in southern Europe. The evidence is a picture in a 5th century manuscript depicting a meal scene with the Trojan hero Aeneas and the Carthagan [sic] queen Dido."

Bonnie "knot necessarily" Taylor


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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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From a page bufungla linked to:

quote:
The pretzel is one of the few foods to have played a role in the history of warfare. Early in the sixteenth century, Asian armies under the Turkish-Mongol emperor Babr swept into India and parts of Europe. A wave of Turkish forces encountered resistance at the high stone wall surrounding the city of Vienna. Following several unsuccessful attempts to scale the wall, the Turks planned to tunnel secretly beneath it, and to avoid detection, they dug at night.

Turkish generals, however, were unfamiliar with the working hours of the Viennese pretzel makers, who to ensure the freshness of their specialty, baked from midnight to daybreak. A group of bakers, toiling in the kitchen cellars, heard suspicious digging noises and shouts, and alerted the town council: the local military thwarted the invasion. Viennese pretzel bakers were honored for their part in the victory with an official coat of arms that displays a pretzel still a baker's emblem today.


To my mind, that's the better pretzel story, because -- as a discussion in AFU pointed out -- the same thing was said about the croissant. And svenska limpa, curiously enough.

Bonnie "on a roll" Taylor


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