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Food Words: US Vs UK2019.03.21


Food Words: US Vs UK

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Dear readers,

I hope you're having a lovely Spring!

Have you ever found it difficult to understand what others are talking about in English? Don’t worry – I have too! Jesse-sensei, Billy-sensei and I also sometimes have misunderstandings when we communicate. We speak the same language, but occasionally I find that a word I am used to in the UK has a different meaning in the US, or that I use words that are completely unknown to my American colleagues!

 
Among the many topics that can leave Americans and Brits confused, the most challenging is food words. When talking about meals, snacks or desserts, I have to be careful to explain the food in a way that Americans can understand, else they might get the wrong idea. Today I’d like to give a few common examples of how native English speakers from different countries can get confused when it comes to food!
 
Take “biscuit” as the first example. In the UK, a biscuit is a delicious, sugary, buttery snack which comes in many different forms. There are shortbread biscuits, chocolate biscuits, nutty biscuits, and so on. In Japan you can buy what I call “biscuits” in the convenience store, for example アルフォート biscuits, which I really like. Aside from biscuits, we can also talk about “cookies” in British English. A “cookie” for me is bigger than a biscuit, usually about the size of a hand, and often has chocolate chips. It’s made from slightly different ingredients, is softer, and tastes delicious when warmed up.
 
Now let’s look at the American English. In American English, the word “cookie” covers ALL the foods mentioned in the previous paragraph. Meanwhile, a “biscuit” is a strange bland snack that nobody really likes, which is thick and resembles a British scone. As a result, when I talk about “biscuits” my American colleagues imagine something completely different to what I mean.
 
“Chips” is another problematic word for us. For Brits, “chips” are any kinds of フライドポテト . Of course, in the UK, we have fish and chips, where the chips are very thick, deep-fried slices of potato. On the other hand, “chips” to an American means ポテトチップス . In the UK, we call these “crisps” instead. I can imagine many British people in the US getting confused at restaurants and bars due to this difference.
 
The meaning of “soda” differs between Americans and Brits too. In the US, “soda” means any fizzy/carbonated drink, like Coke, ginger ale, Fanta, Sprite, etc. However, in the UK, “soda” makes us think of carbonated water, not sweet fizzy drinks. In the UK, we refer to each carbonated drink individually. If an American ordered “soda” in a bar in Britain, they would most likely receive carbonated water.
 
There are some food words which are unique to British English too, like “courgette” (US “zucchini”), and “aubergine” (US “eggplant”). These words often leave Americans completely stumped.
 
Even the words for certain meals can be different. While many Brits use the word “dessert”, we often refer to “dessert” as “pudding”. Therefore, if we want to eat something sweet after our main meal, we might ask: “shall we have pudding?” In this situation, we’re not asking for a specific dessert; just dessert in general! Additionally, in the north of England, some people say “tea” meaning “dinner”. It can get very confusing.
 
The examples I’ve given are a few of many! As you can see, there are various situations where Americans and Brits get confused while communicating. So the next time you struggle to understand a food word, don’t worry – native speakers also struggle sometimes.
 
If you have any questions about differences between UK and US English, come and ask me any time! Especially if you’re planning a visit to Britain.
 
Have a super week, and enjoy the warming weather,
 
All the best,
Sarah
 

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