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.
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 ...
Jimmie F. Rodgers
Album: Cruisin’ 1957
No need to post this as a comment. Dessert has two S’s because they are sweet!
“frozen desert inside a J-shaped pastry”
I don’t mind posting it. I depend on people like you to keep me on the straight and narrow! Thanks.
Rusty, One small correction. The ladybug is Tennessee’s state insect. The honeybee is Tennessee’s agricultural insect.
Okay, Jim. I will work on that.
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
Thanks interesting stuff, Andy. I love it!
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:
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:
Old English wefan “to weave, form by interlacing yarn,” figuratively “devise, contrive, arrange”
Extended sense of “combine into a whole”
Something to think about.
Thanks, Phillip. You folks are really into etymology. I would never have thunk it.
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’)
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.
Welcome to the ‘millennial world’ of beekeeping.
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”. :^)
I never thought of that! It makes so much sense. Thank you.
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.
When I read this I laughed so hard my husband came running in to see what was wrong!
Check this out:
See: “Chambers’s (sic) Twentieth Century Dictionary – 1911
Coomb, Comb, koom, n. … [A.S. cumb, a hollow]
Thanks! This is all so interesting.
Nitpicking here. “Chambers’s (sic) Twentieth Century Dictionary” doesn’t require the sic. Chambers’s is correct, just like saying I went over to Tom Waits’s house last night is correct. One can’t argue with The Elements of Style. I don’t, anyway.
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 … 😉