crisps, chips and tortillas

My friend the Maverick received a news item about this bird through an evolutionary psychology e-mail forum:

The video, from the BBC, refers to the Doritos that the seagull eats as (BrE) crisps, but the source that Maverick read refers to them using the AmE term chips, which, of course, is the BrE word for AmE (french) fries.

However, the BrE crisps = AmE chips equation is not as straightforward as it might at first seem. This is demonstrated to us by the (UK) Daily Mail's story about the bird:
The rest of the flock flap around, begging for titbits (=AmE tidbits) and diving for scraps.
Not this fellow. He simply pops to the shops.
And his tastes, it seems, are rather particular. It has to be tortilla chips. [...]
He is now so popular that customers have started paying for his chips.
Crunchy fried potato slices are always (potato) crisps in BrE, but Doritos and other (AmE) tortilla chips are not so straightforward. When taken collectively with the other (BrE) packets/(AmE) bags at the front of the (BrE) corner shop/(orig. AmE) convenience store in the video, the Doritos are crisps, but when referring to Doritos and the like on their own, BrE speakers often use the American import tortilla chips. This is doubly foreign, since not only does chip mean something different than in AmE, but in BrE tortilla more often (in my experience) refers to the Spanish egg-and-potato dish than to the Mexican flatbread. (The 2007 draft entry in the OED also informs us that use of just tortilla to mean 'tortilla chip' is 'chiefly' BrE, and that the term Spanish tortilla is also used for the frittata-like dish--from the quotations, it looks like the Spanish prefix is mostly AmE.)

Better Half and I have a favo(u)rite Mexican restaurant in Brighton, and when we order chips and salsa there (which BrE BH pronounces with a first syllable like Sal and I in my AmE way pronounce with a first syllable more like Saul), we have, more than once, been asked to clarify whether we mean tortilla chips or (BrE) chips/(AmE) spite of the fact that their own menu reserves the term chips for the tortilla kind and uses fries for the thicker/softer potato kind. Tortilla chips is the more common term in BrE, with 31,500 UK Google hits--but with 14,500 hits, tortilla crisps has a respectable presence.

Cultural side note number 1: Americans are often surprised by the size of crisp/chip packets/bags in the UK. The largest bags in the UK are probably the size of the smallest bag that's not meant for individual consumption in the US, and often at parties in the UK, the host will have opened several individual-size bags (which can be bought in variety packs) into several small bowls. In the US, the biggest bags are comparable to a pillow in size and at parties the chips/crisps are presented in large, deep bowls. This does not--oh no, it does not--mean that the British are unenthusiastic consumers of wafer-thin fried potatoes. They consume, on average 7.2 kg per person per year, as opposed to 4 pounds (1.8 kg) per typical American. I presume that the limits on bag size in the UK have something to do with the limits on supermarket shelf space and home storage space. Because there are no (orig. BrE slang) ginormous bags of crisps/chips in the UK, there's also no need for the chip clip, which Americans use to keep their chips/crisps crunchy between pantry-raids.

CSN 2: British crisp/chip flavo(u)rs are more popular (in relation to plain, salted) and more imaginative than American flavo(u)rs--which, when I was growing up (i.e. before the dawn of 'gourmet' potato chips/crisps), were limited to salted, unsalted and barbecue. Cheese and onion is the nation's favo(u)rite (editorial note: [orig. AmE] ick) and salt-and-vinegar (which was available in New England in my youth, then spread to other parts of the US) must be close to the top. Flavo(u)rs that involve meat (steak and onion, chicken and thyme, prawn [AmE shrimp] cocktail) seem very popular too--a trend that has reached its peak, or perhaps its nadir, in the current offering of Cajun Squirrel flavo(u)r. (orig. AmE) 'Fess up: who among you has tasted them?

An unpleasant side effect of CSN 1 and CSN 2 is that when one's host pours the contents of more than one little crisp/chip packet/bag into a larger bowl, chances are that they'll have mixed together two flavo(u)rs, only one of which will be gag-inducing.

CSN 3: Pringles are served unironically at parties in the UK.

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  1. Just a note - as a New Yorker, I'd never say "convenience store". I'd always say "corner store", or maybe "korean grocery" or "bodega" if I was in the appropriate ethnic area, or "deli" if was more of a traditional deli (um... emphasis on things to eat rather than snacks?)

    1. New York is not the typical American situation.

  2. Doritos etc. are know as corn chips in Australia, with the term chips being used to refer to both crisps and fries (though we may use these terms, or 'hot chips' if we feel a need to specify) Fries refers specifically to the really skinny chips (french fries or shoestring fries) such as those served at McDonald's....
    And while convenience stores exist here, they are less common than milk bars (convenience store tends to refer to big chains like 7/11 while milk bars tend to be local family owned places)

  3. Wait, pringles are considered ironic now?

  4. I've often wondered about the size of British packets of crisps, given that we love them so much. I came to the conclusion that they're smaller because we eat them so much. When I talk to people from other countries, it seems like crisps are something they tend to eat more in groups, like at parties, so they wouldn't need small bags because one larger bag can be easily shared. Brits, on the other hand, seem to like eating them any time of day, so with smaller packets they can include a one as part of their lunch or buy one while they're out and about from a vending machine or shop that they're passing. We also have a lot more flavours, so it's possible that we have smaller packets so that we can eat different flavours. If we had huge packets all the time, we'd probably feel like we had to finish one flavour before starting on the next.

    I haven't tasted the Cajun Squirrel flavour, but I did try four of the other new flavours. I like most flavours of crisps, but those new ones are just vile.

  5. Katie, corn chips in NYC (and maybe the general US) are... not tortilla chips. They're thicker and... and different.

    Wikipedia explains it.

  6. Lynnguist: I suspect that the salt and vinegar chips of your New England youth came, like the Blue Bonnets, from over the Border. They are the national chip flavor of Canada.

  7. When I (AmE) was studying in the Netherlands and hanging out with British and Dutch people, my friends and I had a sort of system when it came to chips vs crisps. For the crispy things, we'd usually just call them whatever our native dialect called for (I'd have had no problem referring to crisps to leave out any ambiguity, but that got a bit difficult since the Dutch call them "chips" as well). For the soft things, we just used the Dutch words "frietjes" or "patatjes".

    Speaking of flavors, around here anyway (Austin, Texas), the big thing the last few years has been pepper-flavored chips. That's pepper, as in jalapeno, paprika, or habanero, rather than black pepper. I personally think they're nasty, but that's because I really don't care for just pepper flavoring. I prefer the spice to enhance some other flavor.

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  9. What goes around comes around. Hedgehog crisps, from the early 80's, during a previous meat-flavoured crisps phase

  10. Cajun Squirrel did little for me, though the Builders' Breakfast crisps weren't too bad. And I, too, have been surprised that the British eat Pringles for actual enjoyment, rather than reserving them for the realm of "things that have been kept in the grandparents' cupboards too long, just in case the kids drop by."

    I have noticed that not all crisp packets here in the UK are labeled as crisps. Some British brands have packets which use the term "chips" or "potato chips," even for the local market. I'd have to actually go to the store if you want to know which brands, though.

  11. Yes, please do explain about the ironic status of Pringles. Some of their flavours (like the paprika ones, or the pizza flavoured ones) are worryingly addictive. Perhaps if I learned they were terminally uncool I could stop eating them at parties...

  12. My last visit back to the US showed that the flavored potato chips are really popular now, but the big difference compared with Britain is that the popular flavors are things like Jalapeno and Chipotle, never meaty-things like Steak and Prawns and Chicken (and Squirrel! LOL) that are so popular here in Britain. And interestingly they seem to come in quite small bags--my friend there was buying the Jalapeno chips three bags at a time because the bags were small and the chips so popular that he couldn't guarantee they'd be in stock next time he was at the store.

  13. In New England, the corner shop is often called a spa. Spas are always independents, and mainly they're the oldest convenience stores in the neighborhood, with a loyal clientele spanning several generations.

    Newly-built independent convenience stores are just called convenience stores. We do sometimes use corner store, too.

  14. Traditionally, the choice of crisp flavours in the UK was between cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, and ready salted (to distinguish from the type where you had a twist of salt in the bag, which you sprinkled on yourself - I can just remember this from the 1960s. There was a brief revival of the salt-your-own type a couple of decades ago.

    In Scotland, where I grew up, chips from a chip shop came with salt and vinegar, known as salt and sauce. Often the clear (distilled?) type of vinegar. Fish and chips is known as a "fish supper" in Scotland.

    Like one the other contributors, I think of fries as the thin, coated? type, as found in McDonalds.

  15. All other considerations aside, the fact that some ambiguity exists about chips 'n' salsa implies that some order french fried potatoes with salsa. Granted, I don't understand ketchup, but salsa seems a little outré.

  16. How (and why) do you serve Pringles ironically? To me, they're just damn good crisps and there's no such thing as just eating one or two.
    I've never heard "tortilla crisps", I think, and only very rarely heard "tortilla" used for the omeletty Spanish dish.

  17. Well, someone had to be the first: I (American living in England) like the Cajun Squirrel crisps!

    While the UK definitely has the more outre crisp flavours (Prawn Cocktail, anyone? Perhaps BBQ Rib?), there are a couple of North American ones that have stood out for me. One was Dill Pickle chips, which were beloved of my sister and her husband in St Paul, Minnesota. Those things were so sour they could turn your mouth inside out and so salty they would leave you a dried out husk, but they were (somehow) incredibly appealing. I think they get the same salty/sour appeal as salt and vinegar crisps.

    And last time I was in Montreal I sampled Ketchup-flavoured chips (Lays brand). I think they are meant to appeal to people who like to dip french fries in ketchup. My response was...subdued.

  18. Oh, and when I'm in the USA I get (ONE) bag of Fritos corn chips to make Frito nachos (Fritos corn chips covered in refried beans, salsa, and grated cheese and microwaved for a few minutes. The chips melt away and form a greasy amalgam with the beans that complements the greasy cheese.

    Utterly wretched thing to eat often, but once a year -- exquisite.

  19. @Julia - are you sure your New England convenience stores weren't called "Spar", which is the name of a convenience chain both here (in the UK) and in Europe?

    Back on topic, I, personally, dislike crisps, although I do quite like salt-and-vinegar, as I hate all those artificial flavours. Pringles are horrendously addictive, and if I do eat them, I always regret it.

    I would say tortilla chips, but a tortilla tends to be the Spanish omelette. I did once try serving a Spanish tortilla wrapped in a Mexican one - it didn't quite work, but everybody appreciated the thought!

  20. The archetypical British "crisps" are thin and with a palpable crisp oily coating over the potato. The American "potato chip", in contrast, is significantly thicker and slightly drier.

    The relation between the British "chip" and the American "French fry" is almost the opposite: the American product is thin, its oily shell enclosing a very small fluffy core; in contrast, British chips have a broader size range, up to the slightly spongy, chewy monsters that Americans call "home fries" -- a term used by at least one British oven-chip company.

    On their own or with fish, thick-cut chips with vinegar are your only man. With a hamburger, it's got to be French fries and ketchup.

  21. Whenever I talk to people about the differences between AmE/BrE this debate always seems to come up first!

    For my (BrE)tuppence worth-

    Chips can only be bought fresh or made yourself and can refer to either the traditional, chunky British variety, or the skinny, fast food American variety. Fries however, only refer to 'French' fries.

    Or, just to throw a spanner in the works, a type of crisps which are long, thin and very hard called, funnily enough, French Fries. We also have an utterly vile variety of crisp called Chipsticks, which are some kind of maize-based, deep fried sawdust available only in salt and vinegar.

    I would use 'corn chips' for Doritos and the like or 'tortilla chips' for plain corn chips served as nachos or an accompaniment to a Spanish or Mexican dish. Just 'tortillas' for the Mexican bread and 'Spanish Omlette' for Spanish tortilla. And I've never heard or seen anyone use 'tortilla crisps' ever.

    Our prediliction for Pringles isn't so inexplicable lynneguist- we like the msg, which is the phantom food group in the British diet.

    As for the difference between British and American crisps/chips: on my one and only trip to the States I was quite dismayed at the lack of flavours (I was in Michigan in 2003) so went for the chilli-based ones thinking they'd be the m ost, well, flavourful. I was very disappointed I must say, they barely tasted of anything and as mollymooly says, they were noticeably thicker and drier.

    The best flavour of crisps ever I think had to be Walkers (known as Lays in the Rest of the World) Cream Cheese and Chive. They were so greasy they were essentially transparent. On the subject of the new Walkers flavours- I've tried most of them (Gary Lineker said I had to) and I have to say the Duck and Hoi Sin is the forerunner at present. Not yet tried the Squirrel, but the Chilli and Chocolate was supremely underwhelming.

    Incidentally, this post has been unintentionally educational because I've spent the last twenty two years in under the illusion that prawns and shrimp were two entirely different things. Not eating either I'd never needed to know the difference. Prawn Cocktail is the flavour of choice for almost any British schoolchild though. Your average school-age Brit is so well-versed in crisp lore that they could identify any flavour from across a crowded playground simply by the colour of the bag.

    Not sure what that says about us as a nation.

  22. N.B. 'forerunner' above should read 'front runner'.

  23. @N: I think your theory about package size and social vs asocial eating of crisps is a good one.

    @Solo: Prawn and shrimp are often but not always BrE/AmE translations of each other. In the context ____ cocktail, they are equivalent, though I'm quite sure (I don't eat the stuff myself) the sauce in a British prawn cocktail (it's pink, right? or mayonaisse-y?) is different from the sauce in an American shrimp cocktail, which is red. Wikipedia to the rescue.

  24. A prawn is simply a large shrimp. If it's very large, and in an Asian restaurant, it's a "tiger prawn". Shrimp must perforce be tiny, to produce the pejorative term for a puny human.

  25. Dr. Tom Roche10 May, 2009 23:01

    Random comments and questions:

    1)Salt-and-vinegar chips scream Canadianism. Here in Mass., as elsewhere in New England, you can get vinegar served for your french fries whenever/ wherever a large Canadian clientele is assumed, such as various beach vacation spots and places where large numbers of Quebecois settled, factory towns, etc. But the use of vinegar on fries has never much caught on amongst most other New Englanders. Let alone the taste for poutine.

    2) Do British folks use ketchup on their chips?

    3) Is the phenomenon of the 'onion ring' known in the UK? Here, one can get both the traditional hot, grease-laden things and canned, cold 'French fried onions' used often in Thanksgiving green bean/ mushroom soup casseroles, etc., but actually quite good to eat by themselves.

    4) Would you also be able to order stuffed potato skins at a Brit restaurant?

    5) Is there really such an animal as a themed 'American' restaurant there, outside of actual American chain places? Outside of hamburgers, what would a Brit recognize as archetypically 'American' chow?

  26. @ Mrs. Redboots - Yes, they are definitely called spas, and it's often in the name of the shop: "Vinny's Spa," etc. And unlike Spar, a spa is never part of a chain.

    Spar, I believe, was founded in the Netherlands, and has never attempted to cross the pond.

  27. @Julia: American Heritage and Merriam-Webster both give "soda fountain" as a NewEngland-specific sense of "spa". I guess the soda fountains have all been ripped out by now, but the name lingers on. If you're a stranger in a town, is it plausible to ask "where is the nearest spa?" rather than "where is the nearest store?"

  28. Ah but Molly (re "shrimps are simply tiny prawns"), I always thought the same thing, and then I went to the States and was highly amused to see "jumbo shrimp"; over a little time it became clear that it was a transatlantic difference.

    To Tom, yes, we eat ketchup (often just known as tomato sauce or sometimes even red sauce) with our chips, we have potato skins on menus and we are very familiar with all manner of onion rings. Typical American food would be seen as burgers, hotdogs, that kind of thing. Of course interpretations vary widely. Suc restraurants are very often entitled "diners", along the lines of "Tom's Diner" or "the Manhattan Diner". "Grill" is also popular in the same context (there is a Ma Potter's Grill near here), which usually means "pale pale imitation of Texas barbecue".

    PS the verification word on here is pringst. I find that neatly apt.

  29. That long "anonymous" post is mine.

  30. Oh and before I forget, I believe Spar supermarkets are German in origin. It's the German word for "save", which may be identical in Dutch as many words are.

  31. Spar (originally Dutch but now in the UK and elsewhere - including Greece) is not a chain, I think - it's a sort of partnership, invented in an attempt to give independent grocers some of the purchasing power of supermarket chains, by teaming them up with wholesalers, developing joint own-brands etc.

  32. Here I am, last again! I can't resist the query about quintessentially American food: I have a little (British) book of American recipes and I use them to make home-made Boston beans, meat loaf, potato salad, and banana cake from it - carrot cake too. I haven't gone for tuna casserole yet, as immortalised in the song by Garrison Keillor.

    I thought I would serve a British meal for some friends in Detroit - one course was home-made Cornish pasties - turns out the mining communities in Michigan originate from Cornwall so this was very familiar to my friends!

    And I'm afraid I find all crisp flavours apart from salt and/or peper disgusting .... keeps me on the straight and narrow.

  33. @Picky: yes, that's right. It's usually described as a 'voluntary chain'. Mace and VG are similar.

  34. Technically speaking, Doritos can't be crisps. Like Whotsits or Monster Munch, they're "corn based snacks"

  35. Technically speaking they're "Wotsits". :-|

  36. One thing is that while technically Doritos are Tortilla chips, I would never refer to them as such. Doritos are Doritos.
    Tortilla chips are the plain chips that are usually served with Salsa.
    If there were a bowl of Doritos at a party, and someone asked me to pass the tortilla chips, I would make a search of the table for the plain ones, and then default to handing them the Doritos if they were the only choice.

    As for the flavored chips, they are definitely catching on over here, though the only "meat" flavored ones I know if are a new Burger King Cheeseburger flavor chip that you can find here and there. No seafood flavored ones that I have heard of, other than Maryland Crab, and that isn't Crab Flavored, but Old Bay (a popular spice on crab for those that don't know).

  37. Re shrimp(s) and prawns, I don't imagine shrimps in the British sense are ever eaten, are they? They're just the little creatures in rock pools you might catch with a net as a child on a traditional beach holiday. And they're never uncountable (shrimp). So what are prawns in USian and are they ever uncountably "prawn"? Come to think of it this has been dealt with in a separate blog posting, apologies if so.

  38. @Jill: As a Minnesotan, Dill Pickle is the only flavor of potato chip I ever crave (being much more a fan of the Dorito/tortilla variety of chip).

    @the general discussion: Pringles are unironically delicious.

  39. I lived on Walker's prawn cocktail crisps when in the first trimester of my first pregnancy...ah, fond memories!

    I got used to calling them crisps when living in the UK (as it did away with the Australian confusion of not always knowing whether one was talking about the crunchy packeted things, or the soft hot things).

    It was after that that my dad's little quirk of requesting "a packet of Smith's crisps" made sense (up until then, I just thought it was some old person's weirdness!). Smith's was an Australian brand, but obviously an older one that drew on the British terminology, hence them being crisps instead of chips. Hmmm, now I'm intrigued as to whether Smith's is still labelled as "crisps"!

  40. Smith's crisps are (or were) also known in the UK. I have no idea whether they originated there or in Australia. Their advertising slogan was "Smith's crisps are crispier crisps". When I was teaching EFL I used to get my students to try and repeat this in my more sadistic moments.

  41. Why would you want to serve Pringles ironically?

    And yes, one of the things that constantly irked me in the US was the difficulty of buying sensible sized bags of crisps/chips for a single consumer. I don't need enough to last me for a month all in the same bag, thanks.

  42. Smith's were the ones with the packet of salt in the bag, weren't they?

  43. Ginger, when I was a wee boy, Smith's had a line called, if memory serves, Salt 'n' Shake. I believe it lasted for a few years, surely just on novelty value.

    PS How should one do the apostrophe(s) on that n?

  44. You must be very young, Cameron. Salt 'n' Shake or whatever they were called were sort of retro-crisps. The original (Smiths) with salt in a bag were called "Plain" as opposed to "Salt and Vinegar". Such choice in them days!

  45. I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that Smith's also did Squares and Chipsticks (which were far superior to the Walkers Fries.

  46. Sophie Sofasaurus12 May, 2009 12:25

    Solo wrote: Your average school-age Brit is so well-versed in crisp lore that they could identify any flavour from across a crowded playground simply by the colour of the bag.When I were a lass, Golden Wonder were THE crisp manufacturer. Their bags were dark blue (salted), light blue (S&V) and green (cheese and onion). Other crisp makers often followed their colours.

    Then Walker's became dominant, using a completely coding. Green for Salt and Vinegar, shock horror!

  47. @RWMG: Yes, Smith's Crisps started in the UK and were launched in Australia a few years later, so it's slightly ironic that it's in Australia that the brand survives today.

    @Ginger Yellow and Cameron: Salt 'n' Shake crisps are still being made to this day! They're now branded as Walkers, but you can find them in multipacks in Tesco's and Sainsburys and probably elsewhere.

    I also loved Chipsticks and Square Crisps, but my favourites were Smith's Crispy Tubes (like Squares but, er, tube-shaped). Yum!

  48. In high school my friends decided that the qualification for a corner store/convenience store to be called a spa was that it had to have Keno. I suppose that's what they replaced the soda fountains with. Thinking back to setup of the spas of my youth I think that may be the very literal truth.

    That does remind me of my (futile) dream when I moved back to the States from Montreal to bring the word "dep" (short for deppaneur) with me. Apparently no one here yearns for a three letter word for corner store.

    For the record, I think all flavored chips/crisps are nasty. Salt and vinegar, the flavor I remember most from childhood, wasn't so much bad tasting as painful, as it totally dries your mouth out until it contracts to half its former size. The idea of Cajun Squirrel flavored ones is both hilarious and revolting (though I'm guessing they have cajun spices but don't taste much like squirrel).

  49. I don't think of salt and vinegar as Canadian. Utz makes them and while they extend into NE, they're more mid-Atlantic (and don't even appear to distribute to the parts of PA and NY that touch Canada).

    As for number of flavors, while we don't get ketchup or shrimp flavor, they make many flavors, and this is just the one brand - I like crab best:

    * Regular
    * Regular Ripple
    * Regular Wavy
    * Reduced Fat Regular
    * Reduced Fat Ripple
    * No Salt
    * Bar-B-Q
    * No Salt Bar-B-Q
    * Carolina BBQ
    * Honey BBQ
    * Sour Cream & Onion
    * Salt & Vinegar
    * Crab
    * Salt & Pepper
    * Red Hot
    * Cheddar & Sour Cream
    * Onion & Garlic

    1. Ahhh the cheddar & sour cream ones! I'm really surprised they didn't get mentioned before. My family (US) loves those, as well as the sour cream & onion, which I suspect are the same as your cheese and chives, or cheese and onion flavours. Personally if I have to eat a flavour, I prefer the cheddar & sour cream, Sunchips brand if possible. Those are divine. I cannot stand BBQ flavoured anything. Salt & vinegar sounds revolting to me, but my mum likes them. Second choice for a flavour would be SC & onion, but really I prefer just the plain, salted ones, rippled or wavy is fine too.

  50. Salt 'n vinegar chips (US) are made by several other regional brands in the US (Herr's in Pennsylvania--my personal favourite, edging out Ireland's iconic Tayto crisps) and by the two major national companies as well (Frito-Lay and Wise). It might not be so popular a flavor outside the Northeast, but one can buy them in, say, Alabama or Oregon as well.

  51. Not to pile on, but I would point out that Pringles are *not* "potato chips": like Baked Lay's, the nasty little things are made from cooked dehydrated potato flakes. That's what makes them so uniform. IIRC at one time (perhaps even now) they were labeled as "potato crisps" or "potato snacks" rather than "chips". I can't think of a good word to say about them; they are just unremittingly awful chip substitutes.

  52. @Elizabeth: For the benefits of the non-Americans, what is Keno?

  53. Is there really such an animal as a themed 'American' restaurant there, outside of actual American chain places?Oh, yes, definitely. Almost always diners (I can think of two highly decorated "diner" restaurants just in the Brighton area) or hamburger places.

    I also often see "American Dry Cleaning". I have not yet worked out whether it's a chain of cleaners or a style of cleaning.

  54. Salt 'n' Shake crisps still exist, from Walker's, and they are surprisingly good, much better than the Ready Salted variety. The salt just seems to have more taste impact, and there isn't as much of it (I find Ready Salted too salty).

  55. @Mrs. Redboots
    To be honest I'm not entirely sure how one plays Keno as I've never seen anyone under 70 play it, but here's how the wikipedia entry starts.

    "Keno is a lottery-like or bingo-like gambling game often played at modern casinos, and is also offered as a game in some state lotteries."The Keno in the aforementioned spas is part of Massachusetts State Lottery.

  56. [SoCal and Iowa here]

    If you say "corn chips", I'm more likely to think of Fritos than Doritos.

    Doritos I would call either "tortilla chips" or "nachos" ...or just plain "Doritos", as they generally have flavorings that make them distinct from regular nachos.

  57. @biochemist: You're not the last comment any more. Though it's nice to have final word. Maybe you should write another one.

    Anyway, I have found this fascinating read. I always thought I knew everything about the big chip/crisp/fry (is that the singular of fries?) debate, but I have learned many new things. However, I still don't understand how you'd eat Pringles in an ironic way. Us Brits will never understand that one.

    And the different flavours available here is fantastic, I hate going into a foreign shop that has only salted or cheesy flavours. Cajun Squirrel and the other new flavours aren't all they are cracked up to be though.

  58. When I was a child in the 50s (UK), Smiths was the only brand of crisps I knew, and they came with a twist of blue greaseproof paper containing salt. As I remember it, the salt was always damp enough to stick together and therefore difficult to distribute evenly throughout the packet - hence the invention of "ready salted".

    I'm not keen on flavoured crisps, but I find salt-and-vinegar Pringles strangely addictive.


  59. Grinny guy - you're on! You wrote:

    However, I still don't understand how you'd eat Pringles in an ironic way. Us Brits will never understand that one.

    I think Lynneguist actually started this idea in her original post, and the result of my musing for the the past few weeks is: perhaps Pringles are just too perfect? They are completely uniform in size and shape, leading us to suspect that they are not made from potatoes - although the lawyers have just established that 42 percent potato content allows them to be taxed as crisps (UK - see the Times May 21st).

    We all know that these snacks are made in factories, it's just that the expensive brands such as Kettle Chips (aha!) give the impression that the potatoes are individually sliced by artisans before being mixed with sea salt and hand-ground exotic peppercorns....when fried, each slice resembles a botanical specimen, showing the different layers of the tuber, allowing gourmets and academics to feel that we are consuming something closer to real food.... now I'm beginning to sound ironic about posh crisps!

  60. While I don't really understand the Ironic statement, it is very true that American's don't generally put out Pringles for a party. Not sure exactly why, but they just aren't. I know I wouldn't do it. If I were putting out chips for a party, it would pretty much be any type of chip OTHER than pringles.
    I believe that they are often seen as "low class." Don't ask me why, they just are. Lots of people eat them, but they just are treated it chip discrimination if you like...they are fine when you are by yourself, but you don't bring them up in front of others.
    Here is my theory on it though:
    It probably stems from a lot of things. They are hard to share when in the tube, and fall apart easily once out of the tube. Plus they are more expensive for a smaller portion, not what you want at a party.

  61. i have never seen a bunch of stupid things like this one ! clearly written by a british !!
    how can you imagine that we americans are so stupid?

  62. @anonymous (latest):
    I am tempted to delete your not very nice email, especially since it is not clear who you are abusing. Would you like to enlighten us as to what and whom exactly you are talking about?

  63. I think Anonymous also needs to improve their grammar, punctuation and capitalisation; that would seem essential if the point is to declare how clever you are.

    What is "a british"? I guess you mean "a British person", but it really isn't very clear.

  64. Thanks, Lynneguist, for your defence (above). The anonymous comment is a reminder that fey ramblings among friends (especially when irony is used, referred to, or both!) can cause offence to a newcomer who may not have caught the gist of the conversation. Perhaps we also need to be a bit more punctilious about declaring our linguistic angle every time we comment, like this (BrE, living in UK).

    And I must say that contributors to this blog are among the most civil - I have been astonished at the level of personal and professional abuse on others - newspapers, New Scientist, where one might expect reasoned argument. Ah, well.


    Pringles are apparently officially potato chips... even though they're only 40% potato flour. (Yuck!)

  66. From my perspective (a 40+ year old male from the suburbs of NYC), Pringles are fake chips. I don't believe I have ever seen them served at a party. Chips are sliced real potatos, not potato mush rolled and cut and shaped into perfect conforming citizens who have no individuality. They are too perfect and hence not real.

    I'm not suggesting they aren't delicious and that I don't enjoy eating them on occasion, but I don't consider them real potato chips.

  67. I agree with the two Anonymi who condemn Pringle's as inherently not potato chips. It's one thing to slice whole potatoes and fry the slices in a factory; okay, maybe you can do better at home, but it's recognizably the same thing. Pringles are to potato chips, quite precisely, as reconstituted powdered scrambled eggs are to scrambled eggs, or old-style (powder) instant coffee is to coffee.

  68. Aaah Fritos are corn chips. I always imagined them to be some kind of Wotsit type construction on their frequent 'My Name Is Earl' namechecks.

  69. Interesting... Here in Sweden we tend to call the tortilla chips for nachos or nacho chips, and you can order a nacho plate and it will be served with salsa, guacamole and things like that.

    Since we seem to use the English words for many things (like, well, chips...) I always thought that was what they were called elsewhere too. Will people understand me if I ask for nachos in UK/US/whatever English-speaking country?

    Chips/french fries here is pommes frites, btw, so not everything is from English.

  70. If you're ordering the dish nachos (i.e. with the salsa, guacamole, cheese, etc.), then you'll be understood.

  71. Ok. These comments are so old, but they are really cracking me up. I can't imagine any Americans of any class serving Pringles at a party. But I can imagine Lynneguist's reaction the first time she encountered the festive Pringles. Thanks for the laugh. Lynn

  72. Very interesting about the Pringles. I grew up in New Zealand and I remember Pringles being considered the VERY POSH chips, probably because we only got them when someone brought them from overseas. I consider them THE POSH CHIPS to this day and would very happily serve them at a party.

  73. Very interesting about the Pringles. I grew up in New Zealand and I remember Pringles being considered the VERY POSH chips, probably because we only got them when someone brought them from overseas. I consider them THE POSH CHIPS to this day and would very happily serve them at a party.

  74. I LOVE Pringles :) And The reason I would not serve them at a party (in America) is because I want to eat the whole can by myself :)

  75. A late addition to your comments here, but Mackie's of Scotland crisps offer both 'Angus beef' and 'haggis' flavo(u)rs! I find their sea salt to be divine, but haven't ever adventured into the meat flavor(u)rs…

  76. One thing you can do better with Pringles than "regular" chips:


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)