The Jimmie Revolution

January 12, 2008 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Random | 11 Comments

Growing up in MA, I’ve always had a different take on “sprinkles” than most people outside of New England. Outside of New England, most people call all sprinkley type toppings sprinkles, but that leads to confusion. There are the log like chewy ones and the little crunchy balls. How do you know what someone is talking about? Don’t tell me you actually call the balls non pareils because if you do you’re a freak 🙂

In New England we have different terms for these two sugary treats. The chewy logs are jimmies and the round balls are sprinkles. The little colored sugar bits are also sprinkles, they’re all small and thus deserving of the title of sprinkles.

Jimmies come in both chocolate and rainbow and sprinkles come in rainbow and whatever other colors they come up with, usually closely related to the mass marketing of holidays.

Just think about the name for a minute. Sprinkles. It is more along the lines of something whimsical and light, just like what I call sprinkles and nothing like chewy logs aka jimmies.

For a long time I never knew anyone called jimmies anything other than jimmies, but college turned into a long running debate because half my friends were from Massachusetts and the other half were from outside of New England. I think the jimmie camp won when we were all in Maine and the random, non New England related ad on the outside of the ice cream place we were at had them all clearly labeled correctly. At least I tell myself we won because of that.

From the research done during college (yes, it was that big of a debate) I learned there were all sorts of different origins for the the word, but non have been proved. There are all sorts of crazy ideas, but the one rumor that there has never been an ounce of evidence to support is that jimmies initially referred only to chocolate jimmies and the name was a racist term related to the Jim Crow laws. JIMMIES ARE NOT RACIST!

Now, I will always call jimmies “jimmies”, but the term is a dying breed and I’m here to bring it back! Just like CB wanted to save dragees, I am calling for everyone to save the greatest name for my favorite ice cream topping JIMMIES!!!! The next time you order Ice Cream get some Jimmies to go on top. Maybe even make up handmade signs and cover your local ice cream shack with jimmy signs. Do whatever you have to do, but stop calling them Sprinkles!

It’s a Jimmy revolution baby!

After the break I have copied an interesting little article about jimmies. I can’t find my original link so I have copied it in full for your reading enjoyment.

The beloved Jimmy Could be Lost: A Sprinkling of History for a Name that’s Melting Away.

By Michael Vitez, Inquirer Columnist

Which came first, the jimmy or the sprinkle?

Evidence suggests the jimmy.

A far more important question for local readers is: Which will endure?

Sadly, the sprinkle.

The jimmy – at least as a piece of slang, an expression of local flavor – is doomed.

“If it’s not a dead term, it’s a dying term,” said Peter Georgas, vice president of Can-Pan Candy, the Toronto-based company that sells a million pounds of sprinkles every month.

“I will rarely, rarely get on the phone with somebody who asks me for a jimmy,” he said. “And if someone does ask me for a jimmy, he’s an older man.”

The fact is that jimmies and sprinkles are the same thing, which is almost nothing, a wisp of sugar, oil, emulsifier (don’t ask!) and coloring.

But by any name, the world consumes about 50 million pounds a year, according to an industry expert – about 1.3 trillion sprinkles or jimmies, give or take a few hundred million.

Mostly, they’re sprinkled on ice cream. But if laid end to end, they would stretch 2.3 million miles, enough to circle the Earth nearly 100 times.

This region – from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore – historically has been jimmies territory.

Jimmies – not sprinkles – have been on the menu for 53 years at the Custard Stand on Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia.

“I don’t bother people who call them sprinkles,” said Vince Joyce, 21, a jimmies loyalist and employee for seven years. “But if you call them shots or dots or ants or black beads, I say something: ‘You mean jimmies, right?’ ”

Right across Ridge Avenue, at rival Dairyland, jimmies have been on the menu since the establishment opened 30 years ago.

The present owner, Michael Kiedaish, 32, grew up with jimmies and says he will never change: “When someone tells you that something’s a jimmy, it’s a jimmy.”

But hints of extinction are everywhere, even in his own store.

“The college people… they’re all sprinkles,” said Laurie Taylor, 23, who has worked the counter at Dairyland for eight years. “And the yogurt people are sprinkles. And kids all say rainbow sprinkles because it sounds more fun.

“I grew up saying jimmies,” she confessed, “but from working here so long, I’ve started calling them sprinkles.”

Sprinkles are encroaching everywhere. Old reliables like Kohr Brothers on the boardwalk in Ocean City are holding firm with jimmies, but upstarts like Ben & Jerry’s on Rittenhouse Square? Sprinkles.

At Daddy-O’s Dairy Barn in Mount Laurel, owner Rob Cotton grew up in Northeast Philadelphia calling them jimmies, but on his menu he lists them as… sprinkles!

“The distributors all call them sprinkles, so that’s what I put on the menu board,” he said.

“This is the No. 1 question: Is there a difference? And where does the name come from? I must hear that three or four times a week.”

Here is some history:

Back in the 1930s, the Just Born candy company of Bethlehem produced a topping called chocolate grains. The man who ran the machine that made these chocolate grains was named Jimmy Bartholomew.

“Thus, his product became known as jimmies,” said Ross Born, the chief executive officer. He was told this story by his grandfather and company founder, Sam Born. Just Born registered jimmies as its trademark, and continued producing jimmies until the mid-1960s – which is why the name was so popular here.

The trademark expired and soon after, Just Born stopped making jimmies.

This account, however, has been disputed.

The Boston Globe investigated the origin of jimmies last winter after a reader inquired about a rumor that the term originally was racist – the idea being that some people refer only to chocolate ones as jimmies, and rainbow ones as sprinkles. Perhaps, the reader surmised, the word descended from Jim Crow.

The Globe found no evidence of this, but did cite a commentary in 1986 on National Public Radio by the late Boston poet John Ciardi, who claimed: “From the time I was able to run to the local ice cream store clutching my first nickel, which must have been around 1922, no ice cream cone was worth having unless it was liberally sprinkled with jimmies.”

Ciardi, the Globe said, “dismissed Just Born as claim-jumpers looking to trademark someone else’s sweet inspiration.” His jimmies had come first.

The truth may never be known.

But what is undeniable, according to industry experts, is that jimmies gradually gave way to sprinkles, a more vivid and appealing name.

For example, a world leader in sprinkles is QA Products outside Chicago. It started making sprinkles 10 years ago – under the brand name Sprinkle King.

When Vince Joyce of the Custard Stand on Ridge Avenue gives his customers jimmies, he gets them from a Sprinkle King box.

For the record, a chocolate sprinkle includes cocoa and offers a faint chocolate taste. But all rainbow colors taste exactly the same, which is to say, have virtually no taste.

This was confirmed by Kasey Dougherty and Kathleen DeMichele of the Dairy Queen in Ocean City. On a rainy day last summer, they conducted a taste test – blindfolded.

Neither could tell pink from yellow from green.

“Nobody gets rainbow sprinkles for the flavor,” Dougherty said. “They get them for the colors, and the crunch.”



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  1. wow. To think I always thought that “jimmies” were peepee outerwear but to find out its a long standing ice cream decor tradition is just crazy! I have been enlightened. Vive les jimmies (and dragees)! ps. how the heck do you even say “nonpareils”?

  2. I am well aware of the Jimmies vs Sprinkles debate. My husband is from New England and I am not. Its a wonder we are married eh? 😉

  3. Wow, highly interesting! I will admit – I grew up calling everything sprikles. I will now join the Jimmie revolution though! Long Live Jimmies!!!!!!!!!

  4. Yea! Someone else calls them Jimmies! J looks at me like I’m speaking a different language when I get Jimmies.

  5. I have honestly never heard of Jimmies before. I’m a midwest gal though. Interesting! You really do learn something everyday.

  6. I always thought they were called sprinkles but I have heard of jimmies though. In the Netherlands we call the small logs ‘hagel’ which means hail. Kind of strange because hail is round…
    Something you probably don’t know but in the Netherlands we eat jimmies aka sprinkles with butter on our bread 🙂

  7. Jimmies are the long log like colored candies…sprinkles are round and small. Nuff said..end of story!

  8. I love this blog entry…..I mean by bf and I always fight about this….I would teach my kids to call them Jimmies and that is that…nothing less! 🙂

  9. Jimmies all the way!!! Nothing worse then being in a different part of the US and asking for jimmies, or tonic, and of course frappes just aren’t made the same as they are in Maine/Mass/NH.

  10. I studied abroad in Australia and there they are called “hundreds and thousands”…i thought that was kind of neat.

  11. I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this weblog on regular basis to
    get updated from hottest news.

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