How 25 of Your Favorite Halloween Candies Got Their Names

iStock/mediaphotos
iStock/mediaphotos

Soon, small superheroes and ghosts and all sorts of other strange creatures will be canvassing your neighborhood begging for candy. But as you pass out your wares, you can also dole out some (not terribly spooky) etymologies.

1. 3 MUSKETEERS

3 Musketeers candy bar.
Erin McCarthy

When 3 Musketeers bars were introduced in 1932, they consisted of three flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—and were labeled "The 3 Musketeers, Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry. 3 bars in a package.' Eventually the vanilla and strawberry flavors would disappear, although there’s evidence that they weren't ever particularly important flavors. A 1933 Notice of Judgment from the Acting Secretary of Agriculture describes a shipment of the treats that was seized in part because "[t]he strawberry and vanilla bars had no recognizable flavor of strawberry or vanilla and the strawberry bars were also artificially colored."

2. AIRHEADS

Pile of AirHeads candy.
Jasmin Fine, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

According to Steve Bruner, who invented the name, he had heard that it takes a generation for a candy name to become part of the collective consciousness—unless it was already a commonly used word. So he asked his children, "What would you call your friend who did something silly?" and one of them came up with 'Airhead.'

3. BUTTERFINGER

Three Butterfinger candy bars.
Amira Azarcon, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to legend, the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago decided to run a contest to name their new candy bar, and someone suggested 'butterfinger,' a term used in the form "butter-fingered" since the early 17th century to describe someone who lets things fall from their hands.

4. CANDY CORN

Jack-o-lantern mug full of candy corn.
iStock

In the late 19th century, confections shaped like other things were all the rage (the Candy Professor tells of children then eating candies shaped like cockroaches … for Christmas). Candy corn was invented around this time, and was a stand-out novelty product because real corn kernels—which the candy vaguely resembled—were then mainly a food for livestock, not people.

5. DUM DUMS

Jar of Dum Dums lollipops.
Sarah Browning, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

According to the Spangler Candy Company, the manufacturer, the name Dum Dum was chosen because it "was a word any child could say."

6. HEATH BAR

Two Heath candy bars.
Erika Berlin

In 1914, L.S. Heath decided to buy a candy shop and soda fountain so his children could have a good career. Several years later, the family got hold of the toffee recipe (potential sources range from a traveling salesman to nearby Greek candy makers) that made them famous, especially after they started supplying candy to troops during WWII.

7. HERSHEY'S

Hershey's chocolate bars in a basket.
slgckgc, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Milton Hershey had worked for a few years in various candy businesses, but it was in Denver that he came across the caramel recipe that would become a massive hit. Not resting on his laurels, he learned of the new European craze for "milk chocolate" and brought it to the masses in America.

8. HERSHEY'S COOKIES 'N' CREME

Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme candy bar.
Like_the_Grand_Canyon, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The candy bar came about in 1994, somewhere around 15-20 years after the ice cream flavor that it was capitalizing on. Where the ice cream comes from is a mystery—claimants range from South Dakota State University to a Blue Bell Creameries employee (to make matters more difficult, many versions of the story have the invention happening after a visit to some anonymous ice cream parlor that put Oreos on their ice cream, and as early as 1959 Nabisco was suggesting that crumbled Oreos in-between layers of ice cream made a great party parfait). No matter the culinary origin, the name origin is generally agreed upon—Nabisco balked at allowing ice cream companies to use their Oreo trademark.

9. HERSHEY'S KISSES

Hershey Kisses on an orange table.
Song Zhen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Over 100 years ago, kiss was a generic term for any number of small pieces of confectionery. So when Hershey came out with their product, it was a natural generic name. As years went by and "kiss" lost this particular meaning, Hershey was able to assert control over the name.

10. JOLLY RANCHERS

Bowl of Jolly Rancher candies.
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

When William and Dorothy Harmsen set out to Colorado, their goal was to start a small farm/ranch. Eventually, they decided to open up an ice cream parlor named The Jolly Rancher, evoking both Western hospitality and the Jolly Miller—a hotel in their native Minnesota. The story goes that as sales declined in the winter months, the Harmsens decided to add candies to their menu, which soon outstripped the popularity of all their other offerings.

11. KIT KAT

No one is quite sure where this comes from. The oldest use of the word "kit-cat" in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1665 to describe a game more commonly known as tipcat, but this is probably coincidence. More likely is that it’s somehow related to the Kit-Cat Club of the early 18th century, which met at a place operated by a mutton pieman named something like Christopher Katt or Christopher Catling. Both he and his pies were named Kit-Kats/Kit-Cats (the prologue to the 1700 play The Reformed Wife even has a line "A Kit-Cat is a supper for a lord"), and the club took its name from either the pie or the pieman.

The jump from a gentleman's club or mutton pie to a candy is more mysterious. A popular theory is that it's related to kit-cat pictures, a type of portrait that the OED describes as "less than half-length, but [includes] the hands." But like most other hypotheses, this doesn't really work because the producer, Rowntree's, registered the name years before there was a candy to go with it, and the candy was originally known as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. Most likely is that someone just liked the name.

12. LIFE SAVERS

Pile of Life Savers candies.
Erika Berlin

The name Life Savers is fairly self-explanatory—they're broadly shaped like a life saver. (Any rumors of the hole existing to prevent a choking death have no merit.)

13. MILKY WAY

Milky Way candy bar.
Like_the_Grand_Canyon, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Before 1970, Milky Way had a very different connotation. That year, headlines in newspapers across the country blared "FTC Decides Candy Bar Isn't Equal to Milk." The reason for this headline is that the FTC criticized Mars for implying in their advertising things like "Milky Way's nutritional value is equivalent to a glass of milk" and 'That it can and should be substituted for milk." (Odd nutrition claims were nothing new though—early on, Hershey’s advertised their chocolate bars as being "more sustaining than meat.")

While the galaxy certainly helped with the name, the original focus of the Milky Way was about how "milky" it was, and specifically that it was milkier than a malted milk you could get at a soda fountain.

14. M&M's

Bag of opened M&Ms.
iStock

The two Ms stand for Mars and Murrie. This Mars was Forrest Mars, the son of Mars candy company founder Frank Mars. Forrest and Frank had a falling out, which resulted in Forrest going to Europe and founding his own candy company (many years later, he would return to take over Mars, Inc after his father's death).

How he came up with the idea for M&M's is a bit mysterious (with versions ranging from wholesale ripoff to inspiration during the Spanish Civil War), but is generally related to a candy-covered British chocolate called Smarties (unrelated to the American Smarties). When Forrest Mars returned to the United States to make these candies, he recognized that he needed a steady supply of chocolate. At the time, Hershey was a major supplier of chocolate to other businesses and was run by a man named William Murrie. Forrest decided to go into business with William's son, Bruce (which long rumored to be a shameless ploy by Forrest to ensure a chocolate supply during World War II), and they named the candy M&M's.

15. MR. GOODBAR

Bowl of Mr. Goodbar candy bars.
Erika Berlin

According to corporate history, Hershey chemists had been working on a new peanut candy bar. As they were testing it, someone said "that's a good bar" which Milton Hershey misheard as "Mr. Goodbar."

16. REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Stack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Sheila Sund, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Harry Burnett Reese started working for the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1916 as a dairy farmer, but after leaving and returning to Hershey's a few times over the following years, Reese set out on his own. His great peanut butter cup invention was supposedly inspired by a store owner who told him that they were having difficulties with their supplier of chocolate-covered peanut butter sweets.

17. SKITTLES

Bags of Skittles in a vending machine.
calvinnivlac, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Skittles originated in the United Kingdom, where "skittles" is a type of bowling, either on lawns or on a tabletop in pubs. The phrase "beer and skittles" emerged to describe pure happiness (now more commonly seen in "life is not beer and skittles"). So the name for the candy likely emerged to associate it with fun.

18. SNICKERS

Bunch of Snickers fun size candies.
iStock

The candy bar was named after the Mars family horse. The Mars family was very into horses, even naming their farm the Milky Way Farm—which produced the 1940 Kentucky Derby champion Gallahadion.

19. SOUR PATCH KIDS

Two bags of Sour Patch Kids.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Originally called Mars Men, the Sour Patch Kid was renamed to capitalize on the popularity of the '80s craze of Cabbage Patch Kids.

20. TOBLERONE

Close-up of a Toblerone candy bar.
Helena Eriksson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Toblerone is a portmanteau of the candy inventor—Theodor Tobler—and torrone, a name for various Italian nougats. As for the distinctive triangle shape, it's generally credited to the Swiss Alps, but Toblerone’s UK site suggests something a little racier—"a red and cream-frilled line of dancers at the Folies Bergères in Paris, forming a shapely pyramid at the end of a show.”

21. TOOTSIE ROLL

Pile of Tootsie Roll candies.
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The official story is that in the late 19th century, Leo Hirschfeld invented the Tootsie Roll—Tootsie coming from his daughter's nickname. But the Candy Professor has blown multiple holes in the official story, finding evidence from patents to trademark filings that show Tootsie Rolls came into existence circa 1907. And as for the Tootsie? The Candy Professor has also found that the company that applied for those trademarks had an earlier product called Bromangelon that had as a mascot the character "Tattling Tootsie." Whether this Tootsie was named after Hirschfeld’s daughter or something mysterious is still debated.

22. TWIX

Twix candy bar.
iStock

The meaning behind Twix has been lost to time (and marketing). But the general consensus is that it's a portmanteau of twin and sticks (stix), or possibly twin and mix.

23. TWIZZLERS

Bag of Twizzlers candy.
iStock

Another term where the true origin is unknown, but it’s certainly related to the word twizzle, which dates back to the 18th century. One of the definitions the Oxford English Dictionary gives is "To twirl, twist; to turn round; to form by twisting."

24. YORK PEPPERMINT PATTIES

Two York Peppermint Patties
Barb Watson, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The popular patties were originally created by the York Cone Company out of York, Pennsylvania, which made ice cream cones before going all in on their new invention. As for the "Peanuts" character Peppermint Patty, Charles Schulz said that the name inspiration was "A dish of candy sitting in our living room." But as the York version was still regional at the time, the inspiration was probably a different peppermint patty.

25. BABY RUTH

Pile of Baby Ruth mini candy bars.
Erika Berlin

A debate for the ages. Otto Schnering named the bar after either Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland (whose New York Times obituary said, "She was known to the Nation as 'Baby Ruth' while she was a child in the White House") or Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player. While Baby Ruth was a very popular name (and not just for Presidential daughters. An actress at the time of the candy bar’s introduction was known as "Baby" Ruth Sullivan), Babe Ruth proponents point out that Cleveland’s daughter died in 1904, around 17 years before the candy was introduced. But claims of a recently discovered court document has Schnering answering under oath the question "When you adopted the trade mark Baby Ruth…did you at that time [take] into consideration any value that the nickname Babe Ruth…might have?”

Schnering responded, "The bar was named for Baby Ruth, the first baby of the White House, Cleveland, dating back to the Cleveland administration…There was a suggestion, at the time, that Babe Ruth, however not a big figure at the time as he later developed to be, might have possibilities of developing in such a way as to help our merchandising of our bar Baby Ruth."

9 Surprising Things You Can Make in Your Instant Pot

There might be fresh bread in there. Or wine.
There might be fresh bread in there. Or wine.
Instant Pot, YouTube

For years now, Instant Pot enthusiasts have been spreading the word about the magical kitchen appliance that seems to be able to cook just about anything. If you’ve mainly been using yours for stews, soups, and other traditional pot-related meals, there’s no time like the present to branch out into uncharted territory. From fresh bread to DIY lip balm, here are nine surprising things that you can make right in your Instant Pot ($79).

1. Bread

Everyone seems to be jumping on the bread-baking bandwagon these days, but many have yet to discover the wonders of making it in an Instant Pot. This recipe on the I Don’t Have Time For That! blog calls for just five ingredients—water, yeast, flour, sugar, and salt—and you’ll also need a 6- to 8-inch cake pan (as well as an Instant Pot large enough to fit a cake pan of that size). From start to finish, the process takes about three hours—two to let the dough rise, 45 minutes to bake, and 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to naturally release the pressure—but you can cut the rise time to 45 minutes if your pot has a “yogurt” setting. No yeast? Find out how to grow your own sourdough starter here, as long as you have lots of flour and a little patience.

2. Jam

Since you’ll need something delicious to spread on your fresh bread, here’s Tastes Better From Scratch’s recipe for strawberry jam, which requires strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, corn starch, and water. If your jam looks like runny soup before you pour the cornstarch in, don’t worry—it’s supposed to. And if you’re trying to satisfy your sweet tooth without indulging in too much processed sugar, here’s a similar recipe for blueberry jam with directions for substituting honey instead.

3. Dog food

Meal-prepping for your fluffy best friend is as easy as tossing all the ingredients in your pot, cooking for a little over an hour, and ladling the stew into containers. You can, of course, come up with your own recipes based on what you have in your pantry and what nutrition your dog needs in its diet, but feel free to try this chicken-and-vegetable mixture from Rover.com.

4. Vanilla Extract

Normally, making your own vanilla extract entails soaking vanilla beans in vodka for weeks—if not months—but your magical pressure cooker can accomplish the same thing in less than an hour. For this classic recipe from Tidbits, all you’ll need are vanilla beans, vodka, and a Mason jar. It will smell pretty strongly of alcohol right when it’s finished, but that will gradually lessen as it ages, and the vanilla aroma will get stronger.

5. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Boiling eggs on the stove is rarely as straightforward as it seems, but your Instant Pot can make it an exact science. With the 5-5-5 method, as seen in the video above, you cook on high pressure for five minutes, let your Instant Pot naturally release for five minutes, and then give your eggs a five-minute ice bath. If you’re partial to soft-boiled eggs, here’s a recipe for those from A Mind “Full” Mom.

6. Wine

While concocting wine in an Instant Pot definitely takes some time, it’s a lot quicker than founding a winery—and you’ll still get the satisfaction of having turned water into wine, so to speak. This recipe calls for grape juice, sugar, and wine yeast (as The Manual explains, you can technically use regular yeast, but the alcohol content and flavor of your wine will be pretty subpar). It will take 48 hours to cook and at least 10 days to finish the fermentation process. After that, be sure to raise a glass to your incredible Instant Pot.

7. Lip balm

Making your own lip balm gives you the opportunity to customize it with essential oils, vitamin drops, and flavors of your choice, and making it in an Instant Pot turns it into a kid-friendly DIY project that doesn’t involve a child standing on a chair near the stove. The Awe Filled Homemaker blog, run by a licensed cosmetologist, uses beeswax, mango butter, coconut oil, and more in this recipe.

8. Cheesecake

For anyone who has (or is willing to purchase) a 7-inch spring-form pan, Amy in the Kitchen’s Instant Pot cheesecake could be your new go-to crowd-pleaser. To prevent lumps in your filling, make sure you let your ingredients warm to room temperature before you start mixing them, and to prevent cracks, avoid over-mixing. If the center still looks jiggly after it’s cooled on the counter, you’ve done it right—it’ll solidify more once it’s been refrigerated.

9. Humidity

There’s a reason (or rather, reasons) why humidifiers have been a mainstay product on the market for years—a little humid air goes a long way for people with dry skin, allergies, congestion, and more. (And even if you don’t have a chronic issue, a humidifier can help you breathe and ease your dry cough if you happen to catch a cold or other respiratory virus).

According to Ginger Casa, you can use your Instant Pot to add humidity to the air by heating water on the “sauté” setting and then flipping it to “warm” for a while. Just don’t leave it unattended, and make sure you don’t let the water level drop beneath about halfway full, to be safe. If you like the humidifying effect and want to invest in something a little more self-sufficient, check out this humidifier from Amazon—it costs $70, lasts for 50 hours, shuts off automatically when it runs out of water, and even includes a tray for essential oils.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

The Reason Americans Buy Refrigerated Milk and Europeans Don't

Buying cold milk is a very American phenomenon.
Buying cold milk is a very American phenomenon.
ziggy1/iStock via Getty Images

Nothing goes better with cookies or cereal than a cold glass of milk. (Or almond milk, if that’s your preference.) Few people in the United States pull cartons of milk from their cupboard. Milk is sold and stored cold, but America is a bit of an outlier in that regard. So what gives? Why do we buy milk chilled while Europe and other parts of the world stock and store it outside the refrigerator?

It comes down to different pasteurization methods. In the U.S. and Canada, milk manufacturers make use of high-temperature short-time pasteurization, or HTST. Able to kill bacteria in large batches, HTST is efficient but results in milk that expires relatively quickly—about seven to 10 days after opening. That’s because the temperature used (about 161°F for 15 seconds) is enough to kill most bacteria, but some will proliferate if the milk hangs around long enough.

In Europe and other parts of the world, another technique called ultra-heat-treated pasteurization, or UHT, is used. Milk is exposed to higher temperatures of 284°F for three seconds, decimating virtually all the bacteria and making it shelf-stable for about six months if left unopened. (Once opened, it has to be refrigerated.) Because it’s “cooked” at high heat and burns off some of the sugar, UHT milk also has a slightly different flavor.  

Pasteurization is named after Louis Pasteur, a French scientist in the 1860s who realized heating beer could kill bacteria. Decades later, German agricultural chemist Franz von Soxhlet applied the principle of high heat to milk, since dairy products had a nasty habit of harboring contaminants that could cause diphtheria or tuberculosis. HTST and UHT methods followed, and Europe picked up on the promise of UHT producing milk that wouldn’t spoil quickly.

Even though companies have tried getting Americans to warm to shelf-stable milk—the Parmalat company tried a marketing campaign with Luciano Pavarotti in the early 1990s—it may simply be too late. The idea of purchasing milk in the middle of a grocery store, unrefrigerated, is something that doesn't fit with U.S. food storage habits. While UHT milk is still sold in the U.S., it’s primarily for portable cartons thrown in lunchboxes or for people who want to have milk on hand in a backpack. For most Americans, however, cold milk is the only milk worth considering.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER