Caius Research Fellow Dr Tam Blaxter’s work has been featured in an article on the BBC’s website. The article explores different regional words for bread after a recent study by the University of Manchester uncovered seven terms for the humble bread roll alone, including ‘bap’, ‘blaa’ and ‘muffin’. These different expressions, said study coordinator Dr Laurel MacKenzie, reflect “geographical barriers, political and cultural divisions and settlement history”.
In the article, Dr Blaxter explains that 'batch', used in Coventry, comes from an old Germanic word meaning ‘to bake’: “This original meaning shifted from ‘process of baking’ to ‘event of baking’ to ‘the set of things baked’, and eventually from there got to ‘set of things from one origin’ and just ‘set of things’. So ‘batch’ meaning ‘bread roll’ is a different, localised development.” The linguist went on to advise that while a ‘bun’ is a bread roll in the northern British Isles, elsewhere the term could denote a very rich fruitcake or a miniature, frosting-free cupcake.
Dr Blaxter was elected to the Fellowship in autumn 2017 and has reading expertise in Old Norse, Classical Greek, Old English, Gothic, Middle Norwegian and Modern Norwegian. Their work takes a quantitative approach to questions around language change and diffusion.