What is the point of marmalade?

A while ago I was given a jar of onion marmalade. What was I expected to do with it?

In my experience, you put marmalade on toast. It is normally sweeter than it is sour, and onion marmalade seemed a little odd, but (with patience) you can cook onions so that they are sweetish, and maybe cooked like jam (as marmalades are) it would be fine. But onion marmalade, it turns out, is a preserve made with much less sugar than jam normally is that goes well with some cheeses.

According to my dictionary [the COD], the term ‘marmalade’ is derived from the Greek for ‘honey’ and ‘apples’ and normally applied to a preserve made from citrus fruit, like old-fashioned marmalade. So how did ‘onion marmalade’ get to be a thing?

As a mathematician, it would seem to me sensible if words like ‘marmalade’ stood for definable concepts, as in my dictionary. As life goes on it is obviously necessary to amend definitions from time to time, but it seems to me that the term ‘marmalade’ in contemporary usage defies comprehension as a category of preserve, and is now just applied to a collection of items (orange marmalade, onion marmalade, ..) with no obvious connection. Who thinks this usage a good idea?

Dave Marsay

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