You say potato, I say potato*

When I was 17, my driving instructor, Barry, had lots to say about jacket potatoes. He asserted that there was a class divide in terms of what you called them: if you were middle class, you’d call them baked potatoes; if you were lower class, you’d call them jacket potatoes.

I was sceptical. Coming from a family that used the terms interchangeably, I couldn’t be sure of the hierarchy. But I nodded and ‘oh’ed while parallel parking.

Potatoes aside, I’ve always thought that jackets give a certain sartorial elevation – enough to turn basic attire into something a cut above. Tailored and smart, isn’t a jacket always sure to transform for the better? …

Jackets take their humble name from the diminutive of Old French ‘jacque’ (a kind of tunic) which came from ‘jacques’. This was a nickname given to French peasants in the 1300s (taken from the presumably common name Jacques = Jacob/James) because it was the peasants who wore this type of clothing.

Barry loved to drip-feed me little lessons on life as I mirror–signal–manoeuvred. I only wish I could confirm his potato suspicions with this etymological nugget.


Which do you say: jacket potatoes or baked potatoes? What words of wisdom did you hear from your driving instructor?

*I admit this isn't truly worthy of being a full blog post but I sometimes post similar snippets on social media as I find etymology an endless source of fascination.

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