Wednesday’s Word: cheddar

(Fidel Fernando)

Nothing ambiguous about this word. Cheddar is cheese. The kind of cheese you put on a cheeseburger. An excellent choice for a grilled cheese. And what respectable macaroni and cheese doesn’t include cheddar.

The typically straight laced Merriam Webster definition of cheddar is: “a hard white, yellow, or orange smooth-textured cheese with a flavor that ranges from mild to strong as the cheese matures — called also cheddar cheese.” Really?

So why is the woman in the Capital One commercial talking about saving cheddar when she shops on line? Because cheddar is also slang for money, a slang that is commonly used in rap songs. Like this one:

(Daniel Costa)

Is there a connection between cheddar the food and cheddar the cash? You betcha. It goes back to a time when Americans found certain benefits like welfare or food stamps embedded with a hunk of cheese. While it may not be one of the options at the local deli to add to a sandwich order, there is something called government cheese. This is an orange processed substance similar to American cheese. It was acquired by the government as part of an effort to subsidize the dairy industry, something that originated in the 1940’s.

By 1981 the government had stockpiled enough of this stuff that they could have provided 2 pounds to every American. President Ronald Reagan announced that the government cheese stockpile should be distributed to the needy. California was the first state to raise its hand. It got a first shipment of 3 million pounds which it distributed to welfare, food stamp and social security recipients. You can well imagine some of those folks saying, “just give me the cheddar.”

There are some other uses of the word cheddar. In the world of sports there is more than one and neither involve strange odors in the locker room. If a baseball pitcher serves up some cheddar it means he threw a fastball, and a good one at that. In hockey if you shoot the puck into the cheddar it goes into the top of the net under the crossbar. 

No doubt thinking of the money definition, there is an online business news service called Cheddar. I have focused on cheddar the noun. There is also cheddar the verb, cheddaring being a cheese-making process.

Perhaps it is best summed up In the words of Ice Cube:

“See we down for whatever 

It’s all about the Cheddar” 

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4 Responses to Wednesday’s Word: cheddar

  1. Phil Strawn says:

    I remember the days of the “government cheese.” A choice of a nice swiss would have been nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never heard of any of this, I only know cheddar as cheese – I’m quite sheltered I guess 🙂 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I never got the gov’t cheese connection before…fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sam Gridley says:

    The Share Food program in Philadelphia often includes a hefty rectangular box of cheese in its food deliveries to needy seniors. I’ve never looked inside the box, but I suspect it’s much like the “government cheese” you mention. A couple of people have said it’s actually good.

    Liked by 1 person

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