The Odd Inspiration Behind The Twinkie's Name

It's hard to name a snack more ubiquitous and more all-American than the Twinkie. So many of us grow up eating them in our school lunches or grabbing them in gas stations on road trips, and that fluffy golden cake and sweet cream inside is comfortingly familiar and tasty. Twinkies have been a staple treat since 1930, according to the website for the snack's brand, Hostess, which makes more than one million Twinkies per day, according to a 2015 Forbes article. That's a lot of little cream-filled cakes.

We've seen a lot of Twinkie history over the years. They started out as strawberry shortcakes when Hostess Vice President James Dewar wanted to make an affordable snack for American families, but quickly realized strawberry season is too short and switched to filling the cakes with banana cream (via How Stuff Works). Since then, special edition Twinkies have been filled with chocolate, strawberry (again), banana (also again), and blue raspberry, reports the Phoenix New Times. They've been the subject of urban legends about an infinite shelf life (it's actually 45 days, said NPR in 2013), and Twinkies have even been at the center of both a political bribery law (via the New York Post) and the debunked defense in a famous murder trial (via The Crime Report). 

We know about Twinkies' expiration dates, flavors, historical significance, and plain and simple deliciousness. But how exactly did these famous snacks get the name that everyone knows? You'd probably be surprised to hear the completely non-snack-related inspiration.

Where the Twinkies creator got his idea for their name

When Hostess started making their first Twinkie iteration in the form of strawberry shortcake, they were called Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers (via How Stuff Works). That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Once the brand switches gears, the snack needed a different name. According to The Spruce Eats, there was a billboard for "Twinkle Toe Shoes" near the bakery. Hostess Vice President James Dewar was heading there for a marketing meeting and looked up at the billboard, and voila: inspiration struck. Dewar of course shortened the "Twinkle" to "Twinkie" (via Mental Floss). 

What's unclear is what made the connection for Dewar. As The Spruce Eats wonders, did the shoes on the billboard resemble the shape of Twinkies? We may never know exactly what Dewar was thinking, other than that a light bulb went off, a catchy name was born, and it stuck. Now, Twinkies are as much a household name as they are a household item in the pantry. They were even included in the Clinton White House's National Millennium Time Capsule in 1999, considered a symbol of American culture right next to the works of William Faulkner and recordings of Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet, writes Mental Floss. Twinkies are truly a part of Americana, and we have a shoe ad to thank.