17 September 2022
And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.
On this program we explore words and expressions in the English language. We give definitions, notes on usage, and examples.
Today we talk about innovation. Innovation is an improved way of doing something. Innovation can lead to change that makes for a better product or idea. Sometimes innovation involves a new, physical invention.
Some innovations are revolutionary.
Innovation brings us to the world of bread and today's expression: "the best thing since sliced bread."
"The best thing since sliced bread" describes a new, excellent thing that makes a great improvement to something. For example, the new map and direction app on my smartphone is the best thing since sliced bread! Now, when driving I find my destinations easily and only get lost when my phone dies.
But where does this expression come from?
Well, for many years, bread has been a main part of meals for many people around the world. Most bread comes in a long form, called a loaf. A bread loaf travels well. You can buy a loaf of bread, stick in your bag, and make it home without the bread getting damaged. And on the way, you can break off a piece of bread for a little snack.
But when making a sandwich, you need two slices of bread of the same thickness. If you had to cut them yourself, that may not happen. One may be thicker than the other -- one of life's little annoyances.
Well, that changed in the late 1920s. An inventor in the United States brought an innovation to the world of bread. Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the bread slicer. The machine cut the bread into individual slices of the same size.
Soon after, he invented a machine that sliced the bread and then packaged it. Later, a small machine to toast the bread was invented. The slices fit neatly into the toaster. Toasters can be found in homes across the U.S. and other countries.
Sliced bread became even more popular. People love bread and Rohwedder's creation revolutionized the bread industry.
So, being described as the "best thing since sliced bread" is high praise, indeed.
Here is another example.
A: So, what do you think of the chief's new policy on paid leave?
B: It's the best thing since sliced bread! I'm going to use the extra vacation time to visit friends in Paris.
Please note: People also use the expression as an insult.
Let's say you know someone who thinks very highly of herself. she thinks she can do no wrong. You don't agree. You could say, "She thinks she's the best thing since sliced bread."
And that's the end of this Words and Their Stories.
Until next time, I'm Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
innovation –n. a new idea, method, or device
slice –n. a thin flat piece cut from something: a slice of bread, a slice of cake –v. to cut with or as if with a knife
destination –n. a place to which a person is going or something is sent
loaf –n. a shaped or molded mass of bread
snack –n. a light meal : food eaten between regular meals
annoyance –n. a source of vexation or irritation
toast –n. sliced bread browned on both sides by heat : –v. to make (food, such as bread) crisp, hot, and brown by heat
packaged –adj. a covering wrapper or container