The new puppy (she’s just over a year old now) has some strange character traits. By strange, I mean I haven’t experienced them with any of my previous dogs (all the same breed). One of them is that she won’t take a biscuit from my hand. If I drop it on the ground, she’ll eat it with pleasure but not out of my hand. But I persevere. So any early morning here in the local woods or park, you’ll hear me saying ‘Take the biscuit, Poppy. Take the biscuit.’ over and over again. I make myself laugh, because when she finally does, I can’t resist saying ‘That takes the biscuit!’.

Originally, from the French, meaning ‘baked twice’, biscuit means different things in US and UK English. In the former, it’s a kind of scone and it’s traditionally eaten with gravy (whereas a UK scone is eaten with jam and clotted cream). In the latter, a biscuit is in the UK what Americans call cookies.

I’m translating for the Port of Rotterdam at the moment, so I loved this explanation from 1700: ship’s biscuit, or ‘hardtack’, was an extremely unpleasant mixture of flour, salt and water, dried into a rigid, unpalatable slab. When rations ran out, the crew were fed biscuit and when the biscuit ran out, that was the final indignity, and possibly the end of the ship. So it really took the biscuit.