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May I have a word: Postprandial nibbles

From the ‘more is more’ department, a name for after-dinner snacks to serve with drinks.

"Americans don’t eat enough already?" one reader quipped.Adobe

Last time, reader Toni Doherty requested a “term for snacks served with drinks, after dinner. Hors d’oeuvres and appetizers sound like something you have before dinner.”

Not everyone who replied took Toni’s request seriously. Susan Ranney, of Hopkinton, declared: “In our house, we call the snacks served after dinner dessert.”

Josh Simons, of Sharon, had some questions: “Why in the world would someone serve more food and drinks after dinner? Because Americans don’t eat enough already?”

Jayne Iafrate, of Falmouth, and Deb Stone, of Old Greenwich, Conn., both felt that tapas was fit for purpose, but I’m afraid I can’t agree.


Modern-day tapas were originally free snacks that bars in Spain served before dinner — or, among the frugal, instead of dinner — to encourage patrons to drink more.

The original original tapas may have been the brainchild of Alfonso the Wise, a 13th-century Spanish king — or King Alfonso XIII, or King Fernando VII, or XVII. An early tapa was most likely a slice of bread, or cheese, or ham — here too accounts vary — that a barkeep set atop a glass of wine or sherry before serving. (Tapa is Spanish for “cover” or “lid.”) Its purpose was either to deter patrons from drinking on an empty stomach and thereby cut down on drunkenness or to keep dust or sand or fruit flies from landing in the booze. Much is unclear, but none of the yarns spin tapas as postprandial snacks.

“We have used the word shnibblies,” Gail Wild and Frank Wiggins, of Newport, N.H., reported, “ever since the property manager of a house we were renting in Spain said she’d leave coffee, milk, and some shnibblies for our arrival. We assumed it was Yiddish since she was Israeli, but it turned out to be just her family’s invention.”


John Hochstadt, of Twin Butte, Alberta, wrote in to announce proudly that the source of this challenge is his daughter. But, he noted, “Out here on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, the entertaining tends to end before her problem comes up, as we all go to bed at 9.”

Peggy Farren, of Quincy; Rosalie Kaufman, of Swampscott; and the aforementioned Deb Stone offered aftertizers. I like that both parts of this portmanteau come from English words — but is it sophisticated, as I requested? Other responses that came in are surely more so.

Wade Smith, of Cambridge, supplied the French-inflected après d’oeuvre, adding, “Almost sounds to me like that should have already been in place.” Scott A. Helmer and Helen Regan, of Brunswick, Maine, submitted the same coinage, après (after) Wade did.

I, however, not being fluent in French, have to rack my brain to pronounce d’oeuvre if it isn’t preceded by hors, so there’s always a long, ruminative pause before I try to say it. Surely I’m not the only person who would get tripped up by this recombination.

Français was also on Larry Butler’s mind. The Wayland resident wrote: “I offer this hybrid in the spirit of après-ski as the postprandial equivalent of hors d’oeuvres and appetizer: après-tizer.” Elaine Dionesotes, of Hudson, N.H.; Karen Gallas; Jack Glassman, of Charlestown; Tom Hayden, of Chelmsford; and Geoffrey Patton all had the same suggestion, with minor variations. So let’s go with it. The six of you earn bragging rights, and congrats!


As for the new challenge, Willa Bluebird writes: “Is there a word for something that sounds like a euphemism but isn’t? For instance, the other day I was salting cucumbers for a Middle Eastern salad I like to make. Guests were present, so I said, ‘Excuse me, I have to go turn over my cucumbers.’ You should have seen the expressions on their faces.”

Send your ideas — and relevant anecdotes, of course — to me at by noon on Friday, Nov. 11, and kindly include where you live. Responses may be edited.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer and editor in Cambridge.