Like Candy from a Baby!

‘Jelly Baby Family’ by Mauro Perucchetti, Marble Arch, London – pic by Loz Flowers

IT WAS a chance remark by my American friend Amy Potts that got me wondering about something I’ve done – quite without thought – ever since I was a little girl.
“Seems a bit creepy,” she said.
So I thought about it – and realised she was absolutely right.
In an Easter tweet, Amy had asked: “Lots of chocolates for you today?”, adding that she felt bad for not making up a basket for her husband, Mike.
“Loads,” I replied. And fortunately, I told her, the beloved doesn’t like chocolate much, so I didn’t even have to share. Instead, I bought him some wine gums and jelly babies.

I had no idea that my little note would sound so strange to my pal. And given that here in South  Africa we use “English” English, her confusion probably wasn’t helped by the fact that “jelly” to Americans is what “jam” is to the English.

Talk about two nations divided by a common language!

“We had to Google wine gums and jelly babies,” she wrote back.
“Understand wine gums but eating baby-shaped candy seems creepy.”
Well … now you come to mention it, Amy, it is rather ghoulish, isn’t it?
Jelly babies have been a favourite sweetie ever since I can remember and when something’s been around for a long time, we tend to take it for granted.
Amy’s comment had me wondering why on earth we had “baby-shaped candy” in the first place.

I discovered they were first produced in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War 1, and were originally called “Peace Babies”. Production stopped at the beginning of World War 2. Rationing, they said. No sugar available to make them.
I reckon the irony of the name couldn’t have helped their cause, either.

In 1953, the sweet little infants were born again – as plain and simple Jelly Babies.
My guess is the manufacturers didn’t want to tempt fate.

The late Beatle George Harrison apparently loved them so much that fans would pelt the stage with them during concerts.
And they’re the “Cosmic Candy of the Universe”, as far as TV’s Dr Who is  concerned. Geeky website Tardis lists all their appearances in painstaking detail.
The doctor, a pretty ghoulish guy himself if you ask me, liked them so much he had bags of them stashed away in his Tardis. But because the Americans didn’t know what they were – as I just discovered – they were changed in the Doctor Who books from jelly babies to jelly beans for fear of confusing Stateside readers.

Typical. Why not let them find out for themselves?

In South Africa, ours are naked, just like the originals but apparently, in 1989, English jelly babies were given “a more streetwise look”. Each of them now has clothes and a name.
Nappy-wearing (that’s diaper-wearing, by the way, if you’re American) Bonny is pink, Boofuls is the blue one, Bumper – the green one – is “a haphazard shape, arms and legs akimbo”, and Bubbles sports a pony-tail. Grey/black Big Heart wears takkies (US translation = sneakers), and Brilliant, the red leader of the gang, wears green baseball boots.

“Research found that women who had children were more inclined to bite the heads off first,” says the website, “while those who were childless ate them whole. No great psychological conclusions have been drawn from this.”

Now that’s really creepy. — Stevie Godson
(A version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch)

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This entry was posted by stevieg on Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 2:45 pm and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Amy Potts says:

    I am laughing out loud. Thanks for this tidbit. I used to bite the heads off animal crackers first so the poor dears wouldn’t see me bite their limbs. Still do that actually.

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