elevenses, n.

elevenses, n. 1. a short break for refreshments, usually with tea or coffee, taken around 11 am.   2. the refreshments eaten then

Words and food combined in the most delicious way; this is the wonderful gift that made my week. A gift that also got me curious about the etymology behind it.

Not to be confused with second breakfast — though it often is — elevenses first appears in 1887 recorded in a not-so-succinctly titled A dictionary of the Kentish dialect and provincialisms in use in the county of Kent. Most commonly used as another form of elevens (n. an eleven o’clock meal) and often noted as a plural, elevenses was originally just a shortened take on “elevens (n. the refreshment) at eleven (adj. o’clock)”.

In use for over 130 years, I could only find it in a few of my print dictionaries. A highlight of my hard copy search was an introduction to the (once) more common elevener. Here’s an Australian definition from the Mac’:

A new word for this Tasmanian (even having lived in QLD for a year).

But. My biggest discovery in researching elevenses was…wait for it… the existence of fourses! (say fourzees, of course.) Yep, fourses was totally a thing. Not a thing I can recall ever hearing about but, clearly, a very logical thing:

The name ‘fourzes’ and ‘elevens’, given to these short periods of rest and refreshment, show when taken.

In another aside, my elevenses-loving friend was unfamiliar with Tolkien’s description of Hobbit habits in The Fellowship of the Rings. So it was a delight to revisit that time Peter Jackson served up elevenses for the masses when finding the link for her.

Other famous (and not so famous) elevenses partakers:
– Winnie the Pooh was a honey on bread with condensed milk elevenser.
– Paddington Bear and Mr Gruber were all about the buns and hot chocolate.
– I’m quite sold on the cookies and tea.

Do you have a favourite elevenses?

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