Ever considered the similarity in structure between macaroon and macaroni? In fact, the two words are connected: macaroon (through French macaron and Italian maccarone) and macaroni (through Italian maccaroni) both trace to the Italian word maccherone, which described a macaroni-like pasta. Obviously it was macaroon that went through a semantic shift here; it was named after the pasta because macaroon cookies utilize coconut or almond shredded in a manner reminiscent of macaroni. Now, maccherone has two possible origins, each as vague as the next. It may be from the earlier Italian word maccare, or "to crush", or it may be from the Greek word makaria, which meant "food with barley", perhaps since the original pastas were made with that vegetable. Both words have uncertain origins. Later, the word macaroon deviated much farther from its original meaning as it came to be the term for a sort of French cookie that had nothing to do with shredded bits. Ah, how languages change!
6/15/2017 06:00:15 pm
Additionally, in the famed "Yankee Doodle" song, the character "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni". In the olden days (circa 1700s), a "macaroni" was also a term for "a very fashionable person". Yankee Doodle, described as a foolish person, was criticized in the song for thinking that a feathered cap would be enough to constitute him as a macaroni. The term "macaroni" as a noun for "fancy person" came about because people associated Italian culture with this foppish manner, and thus they took a word associated with the Italians, and called it... macaroni.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.