Saturday, April 25, 2009

Copy / Käppi

Sometimes when a question comes up on my program, I get a gut feeling that I’ll never be able to find the answer. Often, it’s a word or a phrase that the caller used to hear years ago among family members, so there’s a strong possibility that a grandparent simply made the word up, thus cutting off any sensible possibility of finding its meaning or source.

Tuesday’s question concerned the name used to designate the end pieces of a loaf of bread. Many people across the country call it the heel. Others refer to it as the crust, although strictly speaking, crust is not confined to the two ends. Some call them the end pieces, the end caps, or the butt. This particular listener said that her mother-in-law called it the copy. Absolute dead end, thought I.

But I decided to play around with the sound encapsulated in the word copy. Kepi, the cap worn by the French Foreign Legion, popped into mind. It has a flat circular top, much like the first cut of a loaf of bread fresh from the oven.

Kepi, I discovered, although French, is indebted to the German dialectical word käppi, a cap. In turn, that tracks back to a Late Latin word that meant a head covering (cappa). It struck me that käppi sounds precisely like copy. Coincidence?

So all this is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps her mother-in-law’s family was passing along an untranslated Germanic or Teutonic term that compared the end pieces of bread to a cap. This is where I welcome input from my readers. Whether you offer confirmation or blow me out of the water, my curiosity is aroused. I’ll take whatever I get.

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