A calorie is a scientific unit of measurement that describes the amount of energy contained in a substance. As a term, it has had a wide range of meanings. Coined in France in the 1830s, it was adopted into English in the 1870s. In 1870, Thomas Phipson translated a French science text, which noted that,
The quantity of heat which is called a calorie is . . . the amount required to raise i kilogramme of water i° centigrade ... In England the ... calorie is sometimes stated to be the quantity required to raise 1 lb.
of water from 60° to 61° Fahr., the equivalent of which in work is 722 foot-pounds.
(Phipson 1870: 43)
As late as LuLu Hunt Peters' Dieting and Health, With Key to the Calories (1918), the word was unfamiliar enough to the general public that a pronunciation guide was given ("pronounced Kal'-o-ri").
In terms of dieting, the word "calorie" also refers to the energy contained in food. These two measures are not exactly the same measurement. A calorie of food is cannon, william Bradford 39
actually i,000 calories or i kilocalorie in terms of the way science measures energy. In contemporary culture, calories are used to describe how much energy a particular food contains. This measure can be used to compare one food to another, which has been particularly useful in dieting culture. In order to lose one pound of fat from the body, a dieter would need to consume 3,500 fewer calories in food than she actually burned from daily activities (Stipanuk 2000: 426). People have used this concept to design diets that allow people to lose weight and ultimately change the look of the body. Thus, a "calorie" has come to mean something dangerous to one's health and is the prime focus of dieting.
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