My roommates were confounded when I invited them to share some water ice with me recently. "Water....ICE?!?" was, I think, the majority response. When we sorted through some regional dialect issues (I'm from PA, they're North Carolinians), and realized they would call it Italian ice, they threw in a couple more jabs about the nonsensicality of the Philly moniker and then politely declined the ice itself.
Slightly hurt, but more curious, I have been pondering this in a lazy fashion for a few months now - okay, I said "recently" above, but come on, it's January and hardly the season for eating frozen water with a spoon. Anyway, here is my question: Is there actually a difference between water ice and Italian ice? Is it strictly a question of semantics and labeling, or does some definable formula mean that an experienced ice-eater could tell the difference between one and the other blindfolded?