May 24, 2016

Case File #016.05.24: CONFETTI

As most of you probably already know, confetti is the collective term for those little bits of colored paper that are thrown, usually by the handfuls, during large festive occasions. But when the noun first entered the English lexicon in the early nineteenth century, it was used to refer to a type of candy tossed around during celebratory public gatherings. This is because English speakers borrowed the word directly from their friends in Italy: confetti is the plural for the Italian noun confetto, which means “candy” and was itself once used to denote a small sweet that was thrown during carnivals and parades. (In case you're wondering, the progenitor of the Italian confetto is the Latin confectum, a past participle of the neuter verb conficere, meaning “to put together,” and the ultimate source, via Old French, of the English noun confection.) Around 1895, English speakers began using confetti in its modern sense—that is, in reference to the bits of paper popularly thrown at weddings, parades, and such—and by the start of the following century, the noun's association with sweets had been jettisoned altogether.

©2016 Michael R. Gates