Macquarie Dictionary


The best thing since sliced bread!

We still say it – or at least the older generation does because they are still living in a world where sliced bread is a staple – for toast in the morning, for school lunches. Cutting a crusty loaf yourself is regarded, from that point of view, as some sort of throwback to Neanderthal times, unless of course it was a damper on the fire in the bush in which case it was perfectly proper but you broke it apart, you didn’t cut it. But fashion now dictates that nothing other than a crusty loaf untainted by the touch of the slicer will do.

One correspondent to the dictionary commented with some amusement that her father used the phrase, even though he hated sliced bread as a culinary experience. This is testament to the power of the idiom where the general meaning (an expression of admiration) is accepted while the literal meaning is rarely analysed.

The expression dates back to the US where sliced bread was first marketed in 1928, and advertised as ‘the greatest step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped’. We appear to have overlooked the wrapping triumph – there is no expression ‘the greatest thing since wrapped bread’. Now slicing – that is something different.

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