Monkey: Hey Tracy! Aren't you going to get up? Your alarm has gone off seven times now!
Sloth: Leave me alone, Karen! I'll get up in nine more minutes!
Monkey: Nine more minutes? That's rather specific.
Monkey: Snooze button?
To be honest, the sloth actually said, “It's the best thing since sliced bananas!" But we changed it to something more familiar, so you'd understand. When talking about a fantastic new product, innovation or invention, many people will claim it's the “best thing since sliced bread."
The phrase “the best thing since sliced bread" is about as old as sliced bread itself. And let's face it: sliced bread is really great. Long, long ago, people made bread by hand. Each time you wanted a sandwich or a piece of toast, you had to get out a knife and slice a piece of bread for yourself.
In 1928, Otto Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, invented the world's first bread-slicing machine. Several companies began to use it to create prepackaged sliced bread, which was advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped." That advertising slogan led to the now-famous phrase “the best thing since sliced bread."
And, of course, people loved sliced bread. How could you not? When you wanted a sandwich or a piece of toast, all you needed to do was open the package and grab a slice or two. No need for a knife. No cutting necessary. No mess of crumbs to clean up. It was fantastic!
That's why the popular phrase is still used today to describe new products, innovations or inventions that people think are great. It's not meant in a literal sense. In other words, people don't use the phrase to indicate that something new really is the best thing invented since sliced bread. Instead, they use the phrase as a colorful way of indicating how much they like something new.
Thinking about new products, innovations and inventions, along with sliced bread, got us to WONDERing about what the best thing BEFORE sliced bread was. After all, 1928 is relatively recent in the overall span of history. There must have been plenty of WONDERful inventions before then.
For example, we imagine prehistoric peoples might have used a phrase such as “the best thing since the wheel." Shakespeare might have uttered something along the lines of “the best thing since the printing press." Give it some thought! What were the greatest inventions over time before sliced bread?