honeycomb

What the heck is a honey cone?

Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t have a question about their “honey cone.” How should they store it or eat it or clean it? How can they sell it or save it or reuse it?

I always wondered where this spelling variation came from. I used to think it was a simple typo or an auto-fill glitch. But it happens so often, I hatched a brainy idea: I would Google it.

The real thing

So guess what? There really is a thing called a honey cone. Two in fact. First, there was an American R&B all-female vocal group called Honey Cone that was active 1969-1973. They are remembered for their hit single, “Want Ads.”

The second instance is a food product called Hawaiian Honey Cone. It is a frozen dessert inside a J-shaped pastry with ice cream stuck in both ends.

All things cone

Okay, with that cleared up, I Googled cones. Cone-shaped things are all around, but I can find little to connect cones with honeycombs. The only possible nexus I can see is the surface texture of waffle cones or pine cones which, perhaps, could remind someone of honeycombs. Or not. I still can’t figure out why the error is so common unless it’s just a matter of hearing it incorrectly.

Does honeycomb make more sense?

Long before I ran into the phrase “honey cone” I used to wonder where the comb in honeycomb came from. It’s equally confusing because it doesn’t look anything like a comb either, right?

I’ve never been able to find a reasonable explanation of the word’s origin. Some say the word comb derives from Old English camb or German kamm, meaning a toothed object, but I can hardly see how a honeycomb is toothed.

The derivation that makes a bit more sense comes from catacomb—an “underground cemetery, especially one consisting of tunnels and rooms with recesses dug out for coffins and tombs.” Morbid, perhaps, but I can visualize a honeycomb as a storage room with recesses prepared for honey.

If any of you has a clue of why any of this is so, I would love to hear it.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite


Well it's a darn good life
And it's kinda funny
How the Lord made the bee
And the bee made the honey
And the honeybee lookin' for a home
And they called it honeycomb ...

Honeycomb
Jimmie F. Rodgers
Album: Cruisin’ 1957

Bees storing honey in a honeycomb.
Bees storing honey in a honeycomb.

22 Comments

  • No need to post this as a comment. Dessert has two S’s because they are sweet!

    “frozen desert inside a J-shaped pastry”

  • Rusty, One small correction. The ladybug is Tennessee’s state insect. The honeybee is Tennessee’s agricultural insect.

  • From—-
    Macmillan Dictionary Blog › honey…

    The word honeycomb comes from the Old English word ‘hunigcamb’. It is a combination of two root words: ‘honey’, from the Old English word ‘hunig’, and ‘comb’, from the Old English word ‘camb’ meaning ‘thin strip of stiff material’.

  • It seems to be a linguistic phenomenon called an eggcorn. It’s when a word is commonly replaced by a different form that not only sounds similar, but seems to carry the sense as well. So acorn – which doesn’t really have an obvious meaning is replaced by “eggcorn” – which carries meanings of reproduction and seeds. Honey cone is a nice example, since “comb” is usually something for untangling hair, but a cone is something that contain something – and in the case of ice cream – it contains a treat! Here’s a link with a bit more information if you want to go down that rabbit hole: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2633

  • Well it’s a darn good life
    And it’s kinda funny
    How the Lord made the bee
    And the bee made the honey
    And the honeybee lookin’ for a home
    And they called it honeycomb … such a cute little diddly … now I will be singing this song all day long! I would go with the catacomb, it fits! Great post to go with my coffee!

  • Oooh, this is a good post. Interesting possible connection to catacomb. But check this out:

    WAFFLE:
    https://www.etymonline.com/word/waffle

    from Proto-Germanic *wabila- “web, honeycomb”
    (see weave (v.)). Sense of “honeycomb” is preserved in some combinations referring to a weave of cloth.

    Which leads us to WEAVE:
    https://www.etymonline.com/word/weave

    Old English wefan “to weave, form by interlacing yarn,” figuratively “devise, contrive, arrange”
    Extended sense of “combine into a whole”

    Something to think about.

  • In grammar school, when grammar was still taught, we learned the difference in spelling thusly:

    Dessert: you would always want more than one! (Therefore 2 ‘s’s).

    Desert: you would not want to be on more than one. (Therefore 1 ‘s’)

    • Skip,

      Thanks. I like mnemonic devices. My favorite, from second grade, is “A rat in the house might eat the ice cream.” In this case, though, I actually know how to spell both desert and dessert, but I’m a lousy typist.

  • Rusty,

    Honeycomb – Think back in time when the word starting being used… If you stand back and look at a colony in the wild or the combs in a skep. The combs hang down and when looking directly at edges look like teeth on a comb or the comb on a roosters head.

    Ref: The Oxford English Dictionary (s.v. “honeycomb”) suggests that the arrangement of plates of wax (with honey) “hanging parallel to each other from the roof of the hive suggests a comb with its teeth”. :^)

  • Rusty,

    Now that you have opened the door to the comb and the cone, how about the use of queen excluder and queen extruder? That is a mystery to me as well! Thanks! Donna

    P.S. Always thought the “Honeycomb” song was cute.

  • Check this out:
    See: “Chambers’s (sic) Twentieth Century Dictionary – 1911
    Coomb, Comb, koom, n. … [A.S. cumb, a hollow]

  • I’m guessing that the same people that write “honey cone” will also write “should of” and they really should’ve read more in their lives … 😉

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