While doing research for a ‘Hydration in Summer tips’ (aside from drinking good old water) blog, and as my mind skittered crazily from one topic to another in a burst of what I call, ‘The Frenetic Frenzy of Fern’, I chanced upon a delightful article written about the origins of why a specially sized flake stuck in soft serve in a cone became known as a 99 or 99’er.

Well, talk about a chequered past – more twists and theories than Area 52 has the 99’er!

A few of the theories are:

  • The length of the chocolate flake – that it was specially made for ice-creams at a shorter length, measuring exactly 99mm. But the 99 has been around since long before the days of metric measurement.
  • Apparently an ice cream with a Flake was No. 99 on an ice cream menu, so this became shortened to a ‘99’.
  • That the phrase was coined in Portobello, Scotland when Stephen Arcari, who opened a shop in 1922 at 99 Portobello High Street, would break a large ‘Flake’ in half and stick it in an ice cream. The name came from the shop’s address.
  • The 99 refers to something of good quality or top notch as with the supposed 99 soldiers that guarded the King of Italy; however this actually refers to the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, not the King of Italy’s soldiers, and in reality, there were 105 members, not 99.
  • Probably the most common false etymology of recent years has been that the 99 gets its name from the price: 99p. Although the ice-creams were, not too long ago, just less than a pound, the term dates back from at least 1935 and the days of pounds, shillings and pence, so that’s not it either.

Despite a plethora of theories and ‘facts’, it seems that origin of the name is lost in swirls of ice cream and a chunky, crumbly delicious Flake and who can argue against that? Roll on summer is all I have to say.

I’m leaving my usual station at the water cooler, you’ll find me outside queuing at the Mr. Whippy van. If you put your order in, I’ll be happy to buy one for you too.