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Toffee first appears on the scene in the early nineteenth century. The original form of the word, in northern and Scottish dialects, was taffy, a term still used in American English, especially in reference to salt-water taffy, once made with sea water. In the 1820s we find such spellings as tuffy and toughie, suggesting that early toffee was a distinctly challenging proposition for the teeth (the term stickjaw was a common nineteenth-century epithet for it). The current spelling toffee is first recorded from 1828. It is not clear where the word originally came from, although some have linked it with tafia, a rumlike drink made from molasses.

Until comparatively recently, the term toffee was used simply for the substance (made by boiling sugar and butter together); not until the 1930s do examples begin to appear of its use for a single sweet (as in ‘a pound of toffees’).

Toffee-apples seem to be an early twentieth-century invention; they are first mentioned in the Christmas 1917 issue of the B E F Times.

Toffee-nosed appears originally to be services slang; it is first recorded in Edward Fraser and John Gibbons's Soldier and Sailor Words (1925). It has been suggested that it is based on the notion of the nose being so superciliously high in the air that it completely loses touch with the mouth.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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