Words in the News


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

There is one small consolation for UK travellers caught up in the queues at airports this summer: they no longer need to run the risk of having one of their favourite foodstuffs confiscated. A news report early this week told how staff at London’s City airport were offering passengers carrying over-sized jars of Marmite a security-compliant 70g jar to replace them; a smart marketing move that got both the airport and the pungent spread into all the papers. The mini jars will also be on sale across the country.

The truly surprising news came further down the story, however. Marmite is in the top ten of confiscated items and the most confiscated branded food item, but the most commonly seized items are – wait for it – snow globes. That’s right, those little model scenes surrounded by liquid that when you shake them give you the illusion of snow falling on Tower Bridge or York Minster or whatever. Even allowing for the fact that City airport is in the heart of one of the world’s major tourist destinations, this is astonishing. If the story had come out on April 1st I would have suspected an April fool.

Leaving you digest this information, back to Marmite. The yeast-based spread so divides opinion that it has come into the language to refer to something that divides people into ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’, with no middle ground. As for the origin of the name: it comes from the French word for a large, covered, usually earthenware cooking pot: in homage to its origin not only is there an image of the pot on the label, the Marmite jar itself is shaped like a ‘marmite’.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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