It started with a simple tweet request from the Smittenkitchen.
She asked “Grammar nuts, I need your help: Corn bread is one word or two? I see it both ways but I’m not sure which is right.Thanks!”
I took the challenge and did a little research from my fairly extensive resource library (over my shoulder in my home office). I first consulted my go-to guide, Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts (full disclosure: I’m very good friends with one of the co-authors.) Corn bread is two words, according to this resource guide.
Next, I looked at the Recipe Writer’s Handbook (Revised and Expanded) by Ostmann and Baker. There, on page 169, in the chapter of preferred spellings of commonly used food words, is corn bread. Two words. The introduction to the chapter does say that many of these words have more than one spelling and once you decide on the spelling you want to use, stick with it. Consistency trumps absolutes.
Then I checked the Association of Food Journalists Foodspell: A Guide to Style & Spelling for Food Terms, Both Common & Exotic. It, too, listed corn bread as two words. I was beginning to feel pretty confident that corn bread is two words, not one.
That same afternoon, my newest food reference book arrived (I collect them like some people collect ceramic frogs). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, edited by Andy Smith, weighs in at nearly five pounds, so it’s sort of a combination reference book/barbell. Lo and behold, I encounter my first cornbread reference. Huh.
And then I searched my own blog, and found that I’ve mentioned cornbread — twice. One word, yet here I was making a case for corn bread. Go figure.
In the meantime, I see that SmittenKitchen has posted about cornbread — one word. Deb’s reference source was the late, great, Sharon Tyler Herbst’s Food Lover’s Companion. And even my standard desk top dictionary, the New College Edition The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, on page 297, says “corn bread” followed by “Also cornbread.”
So there you have it. Corn bread is definitively spelled corn bread. Or, cornbread.