Many people like to say a monk invented it (usually "around
1610") as a reward for children who learned their prayers, the word "pretzel"
coming from the Latin pretiola, which means "a little reward." Others claim that
monks designed it after the hands of a person in prayer, with the name coming
from "preces," prayers.
Both stories ignore the fact that in German the word is bretzel, not pretzel.
The pretzel belongs to a German family of breads that are moistened before
baking to give them a chewier texture.
Homemade pretzels and soft pretzels are often made much the same way as bagels,
by poaching them in boiling water before baking, the difference being that
bagels are usually poached in salt water rather than water and baking soda.