Today’s gamblers around the world have their hunger and thirst quenched by waitresses who serve them at the gaming table so that they will not have to leave their seats. But such service was not available in the eighteenth century when John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), an inveterate gambler, spent days on end at the casino. On one occasion, the story goes, the earl, loath to leave the gaming table, even to eat, ordered his servants to bring him two pieces of bread with a filling of meat to eat while he played. The earl did not know then that this gastronomic quickie would become the most ubiquitous and popular term on the menus of American restaurants — the sandwich — and that his name would be immortalized.
As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich was responsible for preparing the British fleet for action at all times. But because his mind was on gambling and not on the ships at sea, he neglected his naval duties. Indirectly he helped the cause of the American Revolutionaries because his fleet was no longer a commanding force.
Captain James Cook, wishing to honor the earl when he was the First Lord of the Admiralty, named a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean after him, the Sandwich Islands. These are now known as the Hawaiian Islands.
In addition to serving as a noun, the word sandwich is used in other ways. It is an adjective in the phrase sandwich man, a man who parades along streets to advertise something written on the signs he’s wearing. Charles Dickens first dubbed this man, in his Sketches by Boz, calling him an «animated sandwich». The word is also a verb, as in «I thought I was getting sandwiched between those two cars».