Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Anna. Anna Wonders, “Why do we have different units of measurement?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Anna!

Aren’t the words we use funny sometimes? Have you ever had gobs of fun at a birthday party? Or helped make a recipe that called for a smidgen of cinnamon? How about a pinch of salt or a dash of Tabasco sauce? What do these words mean?

Believe it or not, some of these words only have general meanings. Others have specific measurements associated with them. Grab a set of measuring spoons, and let’s learn a bit more about these unique measuring terms.

A gob, for example, is a general term meaning a large amount. It’s often used in its plural form: gobs. Have you had gobs of fun at a birthday? Then you had a whole lot of fun!

On the other hand, a smidgen refers to a very small amount. Other forms of smidgen include smidgeon, smidgin, or smidge. Obviously, a gob is definitely more than a smidgen!

Smidgen is more than just a general term, though. It — along with several other unique words — has a specific, measurable meaning, too.

You can find different opinions on the subject. However, many cooks believe that a smidgen is equal to 1/32 teaspoon. Others believe a smidgen may be either 1/25 teaspoon or even 1/48 teaspoon. In any case, it’s a very small amount!

In descending order, here are some popular — and unique — measurements for very small amounts:

  • tad = 1/8 teaspoon

  • dash = 1/16 teaspoon

  • pinch = 1/24 teaspoon

  • smidgen = 1/32 teaspoon

  • drop = 1/60 teaspoon

  • hint = a trace

Using these measurement guidelines, two smidgens would equal one dash. But is it really important to measure such small amounts? Maybe — it depends on whom you ask.

Some cooks will tell you that improperly measuring ingredients is the fastest way to ruin a recipe. Of course, in many situations, that could be true. If a cake recipe calls for two cups of flour, you should use two cups of flour. Using three or four cups would be a huge mistake.

But what about tiny amounts? Some cooks believe these historically tiny amounts were never intended to have definite measurements associated with them. They believe these unique names were developed to describe small amounts that just flavor certain dishes.

Many cooks would tell you that it won’t matter whether you use a tad, dash, pinch, or smidgen. All you’ll do is add a bit of flavor, regardless of the exact amount. When so little of an ingredient is needed, the exact amount is irrelevant.

When it comes to larger measurements of key ingredients, careful measurement can make a much bigger difference. Pay attention to how many tablespoons and cups of sugar, flour, and cornmeal a recipe calls for! But don’t sweat the small stuff. A tad, dash, or smidgen isn’t going to hurt anything.


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