Origin of the word
The origin of the word crackling is a simple one; it comes from the verb crackle which was formed from the late Middle English word ‘crack’, and the suffix ‘-le’. The word ‘crack’ itself derives from the Old English term ‘cracian’, or ‘to make an explosive noise’. The use of the adjective crackling in relation to an animated or heated exchange comes from the metaphorical sense of the verb meaning ‘to be full of nervousness or excitement’, while as a noun crackling means the sound made by something when it crackles. Its application to cooked pork skin may derive from the slight crackling sounds made by pork skin as it cooks, or perhaps as it is eaten. The noun can also refer to the pattern of tiny cracks on the surface of ceramics, glassware or similar.
“It’s a sweet, inoffensive romantic comedy based on a slim premise, but buoyed by strong performances, the unmistakable charm and texture of small-town India, and garnished with moments of crackling humour.” – News18.com, Friday 18th August 2017: Bareilly Ki Barfi movie review: Garnished with moments of crackling humour.
“An intricate, delicate and layered hue that is truly unique to each skin, and beautifully mirrors the layered colours and unique crackling effect on ancient traditional Asian porcelains.” – Marie France Asia, Monday 28th August 2017: Moynat launches iconic Réjane bag exclusive to Singapore.
“Good as it tastes, for me fat is a largely a textural pleasure, like chicken’s feet or water biscuits, and pork crackling is surely the supreme example of this: a blistered top, as dry and crunchy as an autumn leaf, hiding a layer of yielding, creamy fat beneath.” – The Guardian, Thursday 15th April 2010: “How to make perfect pork crackling.”
1: the sound that something makes when it crackles
2: the hard skin on a piece of cooked pork
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
Crackling humour. Doesn’t really fit the two meanings in the definition.
There must be a third meaning to it to suggest crisp and good
Thanks for your comment Ruchir, it’s a good one. The meaning of ‘crackling’ here, which also often applies to nouns like ‘wit’ and ‘dialogue’, is one that is not really covered by other dictionaries that I have looked at either. I think it’s actually a combination of the two meanings of the verb: a figurative use of the first meaning combined with the ‘excitement’ element of the second; so the humour (or wit or dialogue) sparks and pops like burning wood and at the same time conveys a feeling of nervous excitement and energy. I notice that ‘crackle’ is also used as a verb with subjects like prose, dialogue and scene to convey a similar idea.