Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Origin of the word "fridge"

I get the odd visitor to Fridge-Googling wanting to know what the origins (etymology, for the linguists) of the word fridge are.

Well, I don't want to disappoint you, but there is nothing spectacular about it. Having done some research I can reveal the following about the history of the word fridge, or rather refrigerator, since that is the full form of the word, and the history of the fridge itself:

- the word refrigerator is formed from the Latin roots re- and frigus, and would mean 'to cool again'.
- it is not clear who first used the term to refrigerate but the idea of removing heat from an area to keep things cool is hardly new, and was done by prehistoric peoples using ice.
- the modern technique of refrigeration, i.e. circulating some kind of liquid around which removes heat energy from the space desired, e.g. the inside of your fridge is based on experiments done as early as 1748 by William Cullen. But they couldn't think of anything to use it for at the time!
- others to work on refrigeration included celebrated scientist Michael Faraday, but the first to patent an actual device was one Jacob Perkins in 1834, although it apparently flopped commercially! Well, why would you want to cool things down, for goodness' sakes!?

And what is the origin of the word fridge..? Erm, I would have thought it was blindingly obvious but since you ask, the word fridge is a product of normal linguistic processes whereby a word that we use every single day multiple times gets contracted down and because we can't be bothered to say refrigerator every time, we say fridge. And there you have it, the origins of the word fridge! (just don't quote this in any scientific journals!)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The curiosity is not the derivation of the word "fridge" as a abbreviation for "refrigerator" but why it has a "d" in it. I thought it might be from a well-known manufacturer of fridges called "Frigidaire" but the "d" in their spelling (or in the word frigid) is not where it would be if it were abbreviated either.

markowe said...

My feeling is simply that it was shortened in everyday speech first. You still have the "j" sound in "fridge", but how else would you spell it than "..idge"? Actually, the curiosity might be that "..frige.." is pronounced with the "j" sound in "refrigerator" - why would it not be pronounced "refriggerator"?!

Probably influence of French?

Anonymous said...

The prefix "re" seems odd - it implies the items in the fridge were cold to begin with, have subsequuently warmed up and now need to be made cold again. Why wasn't it simply called a "frigerator"?

Anonymous said...

The prefix "re" seems odd - it implies the items in the fridge were cold to begin with, have subsequuently warmed up and now need to be made cold again. Why wasn't it simply called a "frigerator"?

markowe said...

Heh, I wasn't expecting etymological discussions on this site, but always good to get into some word discussions!

Very good point! Especially as you are not supposed to keep heating and cooling food - promotes growth of bacteria! No answer to that one...

Anonymous said...

Alfred Mellowes was the first to construct a true refrigerator. He was also a founder of the Frigidaire company. Often times we refer to the manuracturors name when referring to an item. I think that it is totally possible that the term fridge was used because the majority of households initially had a fridigaire until other companies started to mass produce, but by then the name stuck

markowe said...

Thanks for the enlightenment! I think we missed that when originally writing the article. Of course, trademarks very often get "genericised". In Britain a vacuum cleaner will forever be called a "hoover", much to the annoyance of the Hoover company, who have probably more or less lost their trademark claim by now!

Andy121 said...

In Ancient Roman bath houses, the romans would induce sweating by moving from one room to another. Frigidarium is the second stage, it is known as the "cold room". Reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Roman_bathing

markowe said...

Oh, nice one, I hadn't heard that explanation!

Sarah Dwyer said...

Prior to frigidaire making refridgerators people had "ice boxes" which had giant blocks of ice in them. I didn't look up more details on this or if it was only used for part of a year or what. Though when ice boxes were used places in the northeast with lakes had a fairly tidy business with cutting large blocks of ice out of frozen ponds and lakes.