Confused about confetti and coriander

It's Carnival, and the streets are littered with ... what?


Confetti, in Italian, are the sugared almonds given to guests, traditionally at a wedding, when the sugar coating is white, and now extended to pink or blue at a baptism and red at a university graduation. "A quando i confetti" is apparently a cute way of asking when one is going to get married. Given that they are rather hard, one understandably does not throw confetti at a wedding. One throws rice.

And then it gets tricky. Because Italians do throw little bits of coloured paper, but during Carnival and New Year's, rather than at newlyweds.

I guess that confetti derives somehow or another from confezione, a package (of sugared almonds) or confection. Trying to find the meaning of coriander, though, is more difficult. Neither of my two little reference books has it, and I don't have a copy of Stearn's Botanical Latin. Most places just say it is derived from some ancient version of the word coriander. Eventually, I found the botanary, at Dave's Garden, which says that it is: "From the Greek koris, a bug or gnat; referring to its aroma". That's better, although the logical positivist in me would love to know which bug or gnat, so I could try a sniff test.

Questions remain:

  • Why are coriandoli so called? Were coriander seeds ever thrown during celebrations?
  • How did Italian almond confetti get transformed into English paper confetti?

Over to you, internets.

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Hi there, I'm from Italy. In most languages (including English, German, French, Dutch, Swedish and Spanish), even non-Indo-European languages, the word "confetti" refers to our "coriandoli". The origin of linguistic confusion originated in the Renaissance when in Italy, at weddings or during the carnival, it was used to throw real sugared almonds, sometimes composed of the seeds of the coriander plant. These seeds were covered with sugar and, in addition to being consumed as sweets, a bit like today it is possible to taste in Indian restaurants, as a digestive at the end of the meal, they could also be thrown as a joke on people during carnival parties.

5 months ago