Posted by: Didapper PJ8 MAY 2013
This year marks an important quincentenary, for it was 500 years ago, in 1513, that the word “scone” first appeared in print. This earliest reference comes from ‘Eneados’, a Middle Scots adaptation of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ by the Scottish poet and translator Gavin Douglas (c.1474–1522). Chapter 3 of Book 7 includes the sentence: “The flour sconnis war sett in, by and by, wyth other mesis, sic as was reddy.”
The “correct” pronunciation of the word “scone” has long been a matter of dispute. Should it rhyme with John or with Joan? The issue is well illustrated by the anonymous quatrain: “I asked the maid in dulcet tone / To order me a buttered scone. / The silly girl has been and gone / And ordered me a buttered scone.”
Early spellings suggest that the word began with a short vowel, but the alternative pronunciation has become increasingly common. However, one recent study found that two-thirds of Britons — including practically everyone in Scotland — still pronounce the word to rhyme with John and only one-third rhyme it with Joan.
Just to confuse matters, the Scottish village of Scone is pronounced to rhyme with June.
Scones are traditionally made from fine white flour, acidified milk and an alkaline raising agent. The milk is either soured milk (milk coagulated by the addition of lemon juice or vinegar) or buttermilk (the acidic liquid left over after butter-making). The raising agent is usually sodium bicarbonate. The acidic milk and the alkaline raising agent react to release the carbon dioxide that makes the scone mixture rise.
Scones are usually baked on a griddle or in the oven. They were originally made in the form of flat cakes that were cut into four. If the cake was rectangular or square it produced portions of the same shape; if it was round, it produced roughly triangular portions. The individually baked round scones normally encountered nowadays are a more recent development.