Slush Puppies

In the NYT on the 23rd, an obit by Paul Vitello, “Will Radcliff, 74, Creator of the Slush Puppie, Dies”, beginning:

Flavored ice drinks had been around since the Romans, and machines had been churning them out under various brand names for almost as long, it seems, when Will Radcliff, a peanut salesman, had the ice beverage inspiration that made him rich.

He called it a Slush Puppie. Thirty years later, when he sold the company he had founded to make and market the product, the Slush Puppie had become a staple among aficionados of brain-freezing supersweet drinks all over the world.

(“brain-freezing supersweet drinks” is a nice turn of phrase). The product mascot:


Vitello’s story continues:

Mr. Radcliff, who died on Thursday in Cincinnati at 74, was inspecting a slush-making machine he had come upon at a trade fair in Chicago in 1970 when the idea struck him: “I could sell a drink for 10 cents, and make 7 cents” on each sale, he told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1998.

Other products like it were available — Slurpee was being sold by 7-Eleven — but to his mind they were not being marketed well enough to spread the word about the pleasures of flavored ice drinks.

“Nothing was being done to make it take off,” he said. “There was no magic.”

… As the oft-repeated story goes, his sister, Phyllis Radcliff Crawford, and their mother, Thelma Radcliff, helped create the name Slush Puppie during a brainstorming session over a six-pack of beer on the porch of his Cincinnati home.

The story doesn’t mention the language play in the name, echoing the name hushpuppy (or hush-puppy or hush puppy), for a foodstuff that has absolutely no connection to flavored ice drinks; more on hushpuppies in a moment.

Wikipedia on the icy delight:

Slush Puppie is a slush beverage created in 1974, and marketed both directly by the Slush Puppie division of The ICEE Company, and through its Slush Puppie Distributors in the U.S. A Slush Puppie has two major components; the base and the flavoring. The base is made from a special syrup that is mixed with water and then frozen. This creates a mixture resulting in pellets of ice in a sweet liquid. The taste is simply that of the flavored syrup.

Then from the company’s site, an orgy of vivid ad-talk:

Experience Puppy Love: Why settle for just any treat when you can satisfy all your senses with a SLUSH PUPPIE? Blooming with crisp, vivid color, each flavor bursts with bold, fruity taste and aroma. The sweet crunch of the ice going from the machine to your cup to your mouth. [It] is more than just a tasty treat, it’s an experience!

And in an extraordinary variety of flavors:

cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon, polar purple, green apple, lemon lime, tropical punch, kiwi strawberry, mango, strawberry cream, neutral base, orange frenzy, strawberry, cotton candy, piña colada, strawberry banana, cherry cola, bubble gum, cherry, cherry lime, grape, pomberry açai, sour green apple, strawberry lemonade, frosted blue raspberry, orange, frosted kiwi strawberry, frosted snow cherry, frosted cherry lime, frosted orange, banana berry, pineapple orange, black cherry, peach

(Just reading this list makes my teeth hurt.)

There are several brand-named flavored ices, and then there’s the snow cone:

Snow cones are a variation of the shaved ice dessert commonly served throughout North America in paper cones or foam cups. The dessert consists of ice shavings that are topped with flavored sugar syrup.

Depending on the region of North America, the terms “snowball” and “snow cone” may refer to different things. Where the distinction is made, the former refers to a dessert made of finely shaved ice (“like soft fresh snow”), while the latter contains ice that is coarser and more granular (“crunchy”). (Wikipedia link)

Finally, to hushpuppies, also from Wikipedia:

A hushpuppy (or cornbread ball [or corn dodger]) is a savory food made from cornmeal batter that is deep fried or baked rolled as a small ball or occasionally other shapes. Hushpuppies are frequently served as a side dish, usually at seafood restaurants.

Etymology: The first recorded reference to the word “hush-puppy” dates to 1899 [according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, but it gives no cites].

Hushpuppies are a food with strong ties to the Southern United States, although they are available in many areas of the United States on the menus of deep fried fish restaurants. The name “hushpuppies” is often [fancifully] attributed to hunters, fishermen, or other cooks who would fry some basic cornmeal mixture (possibly that they had been bread-coating or battering their own food with) and feed it to their dogs to “hush the puppies” during cook-outs or fish-fries.

From the OED2 entry for hush-puppy (with the uninformative etymology hush + puppy) in sense 1 (sense 2 is the brand name Hush Puppies for a type of shoe):

a first cite from 1918 (Dial. Notes 5 18): Hushpuppy, a sort of bread prepared very quickly and without salt

and then in cites beginning in 1942 (M. K. Rawlings, Cross Creek Cookery 28): Fresh-caught fried fish without hush puppies are as men without women

Ready to eat:


(Thanks to Paul Kay for providing me with the OED page.)

2 Responses to “Slush Puppies”

  1. John Says:

    Don’t forget Hush Puppies, the shoes!

  2. Two linguistics cartoons | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « Slush Puppies […]

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