It's been a while since I've had a simple 'they call it this/we call it that' post. Some of you can think of this as a reward for sitting through all the grammar and html tables. It's an old request, but a seasonal one. Mrs Redboots wrote months ago to ask:

"She had once stayed in a rented cottage in Surrey, and she remembered the odd term the British use for this arrangement: self-catering."

Is it odd? And what do Americans say?
It is odd, Mrs R. And although just sentences ago I promised a 'they call it this/we call it that' post, I can't hono(u)r my own promise, because Americans don't call it anything.

Why? Because Americans don't expect their holiday/vacation abodes (and their prices) to include any meals. The British notion of 'bed and breakfast' is regarded as a quaint one that was only imported in earnest (as tourist accommodation) to America a couple of decades ago (or so). In fact, I recently had a conversation with an Englishwoman who had come over to the US for our second wedding reception and was still talking (two years later) about how incredibly wonderful the B&B in my hometown was. While that B&B is especially nice (elaborate, different breakfasts every morning, warm cookies every evening, all antique furniture, scented bath potions, and so forth), I think it especially impressed my English friend because B&B accommodation in the UK can be somewhat dire (it can also be very, very nice). In fact, B&Bs often serve the roles in the UK that (AmE) motels do in the US (except that there are far fewer films involving murders in B&Bs than in motels!). For evidence, see this article that recalls a B&B's role in housing homeless families.

I'm finding that increasingly one can get a room in a hotel without breakfast in the UK (for a lower price), just as in the US provision of included-in-the-price breakfast (or at least doughnuts and coffee) has increased.

But back to self-catering. This is generally used by BrE speakers to refer to (BrE) holiday/(AmE) vacation accommodation such as cottages, cabins, and (BrE) flats/(AmE) apartments,where there is no restaurant or service staff to provide meals, but cooking facilities are available. In the US, we'd just say we were renting a cottage somewhere, and that would be that--no need to mention the eating arrangements. One often hears BrE speakers saying things like "We want to go self-catering this year", to mean that they want a reduced-cost, back-to-basics holiday/vacation.

One often sees (BrE) package holidays advertised as 'self-catering' (as opposed to 'bed and breakfast' or 'all inclusive'). Here's another contrast: Americans rarely take package holidays unless (a) they've got a deal to go to Disneyworld, or (b) they're in their 'golden years'. This is probably because (a) Americans are wary of anything that might 'tie them down' too much, (b) [and therefore] they often just get in the car and drive, and (c) they get almost no holiday/vacation time (usually two weeks' paid vacation for Americans versus the six weeks or so that Europeans usually get)--and therefore often use what they've got to do things that need to be done, like visiting family or undertaking big projects, rather than going on treks to new and different places.

We've discussed a couple of other differences in tourist accommodation in past posts--so click back if you'd like to read/discuss (BrE) flannels/(AmE) washcloths in hotel bathrooms or (BrE) en-suite accommodation.


  1. In the UK, if you go for a 'self-catering' holiday in a country cottage, you will usually find that a pub in the nearby village offers a good range of evening meals, but there are no coffee bars for breakfast. Thus 'self-catering' can mean no more than making tea and toast in the house, and eating all other meals 'out'. These cottage holidays also resemble 'packages' in the sense that most run from Saturday to Saturday - if you arrive on Saturday afternoon, the place will just have been cleaned after the previous occupant (you hope!). When times are hard, some companies will allow customers to hire the place for part of a week, and some will offer alternative changeover days.

    I believe you will usually find facecloths in UK hotel rooms - certainly in the better hotels and those in American chains - but they become less frequent in cheaper hotels and in B&B places - suggesting that this is because of pilferage and laundry costs.

    And in some self-catering cottages you would be expected to bring your own towels, and possibly your own bedlinen - it's always worth checking these details before you pay the deposit!

  2. The reason for British people taking more package holidays than Americans is that you're normally going, often by plane, to a country where you don't speak the language, or have much idea of the prices.

    After all, it is rare to find a package holiday within the UK itself (unless you're booking it from abroad).

  3. @Stephen: very good point re language. Americans do take package-y things more often when going to Europe, but hardly any of us go to Europe!

  4. Thank you, Lynne.

    I go on holiday every year to a small town in the French Alps, along with many other friends from all over the world; by and large (and this is a VERY sweeping statement) while the majority of the Britons go self-catering, a very significant minority, if not a majority, of the Americans don't.

    I agree with biochemist, though, that many self-catering places would really rather you ate at the local pub, or wherever, if only to simplify the cleaning at the end of the week! Although most places now would provide a microwave, for the hotting up of take-aways.

    The kind of hotels we stay at when travelling in Europe, breakfast is almost invariably an extra. One hotel in Belgium wanted to charge €12 per person, so we said no thank you, and stopped off a few miles down the road for a delicious breakfast for about €4 each!

  5. My definition of self-catering is 'good intentions you piously intend to carry out in order to save money but which fly out of the window on the first night when you end up in a nice pub for dinner and convince yourself it's cheap at the price of £16.95 for a starter because you just can't be arsed.'

  6. Oh yes, of course, Brits on holiday in Europe have discovered 'villa holidays' - some have cooks and cleaners included in the price, others are 'self-catering'. The weekend newspapers are full of feature articles about the competitive cooking and drinking that ensues when two or more families hire a large villa ... all that sunshine seems to bring out the worst in people.

  7. If you are looking for a "you say/we say" topic, might I suggest musical terminology? I'm an AmE speaker that's been living in Oxford for about two years. I've been singing in the local choir and am still getting used to a slightly different set of terminology than I'm used to. What I'd call a "quarter note" (one beat in length), the rest of the choir thinks of as a "crochet" (pronounced as in "crochety old man," not the yarn craft). My "half note" is their "minim."

    I suspect there are other gaps in the language around music, but those are the two that I've stumbled upon. It's especially funny to me because music is so often represented as the universal language -- I didn't expect terminology differences to spring up there!

  8. Two things - I have definitely seen the term "Self-Catering" here in the US and I was trying to think of where it was more common, assuming regional differences. In my experience it's a pretty common term in Canada, at least the Atlantic provinces where we've had many vacations, and I think maybe I've seen it more in the US in the great lakes region bordering Canada - that would make sense.
    Also, I don't really think it's accurate anymore to say that most Americans only get 2 weeks vacation. It's really very job-related. Most professionals begin their careers at 2 weeks vacation and gain additional vacation each year, so it makes a difference how old you are/how long you've worked. I get 6 weeks of annual vacation and I have for many years, and most of the professionals I know get at least 4 weeks. My husband has a strange calculation for vacation which I'm told is becoming more popular among small companies where his vacation accrual is tied to how many hours he works on average in a month - rewarding engineers who put in overtime by having them accrue vacation at a more rapid rate than those who put in their standard 40 hours. Service industry positions are much more likely to start at 2 weeks and stay there, but even McDonald's increases their employee's vacation beyond 2 weeks with longevity. I suppose there's not much longevity at McDonald's though... :-)

  9. I must admit that I was surprised, the only time I stayed in a hotel in the US, to find that breakfast was not included in the price of the room. I assumed it was just part of the cheap deal for the conference I was at, but now I'm realising it's normal.

  10. Jo, it's pronounced crotchet because it's spelled that way, with a t, not like crochet. ;)

  11. As an American musician who has been playing and singing in ensembles in London for several years, I've been surprised at how little new terminology I've had to learn, almost nothing aside from the note value names.

    Now, the question of what music "everyone" knows is an entirely different matter. I was amused at how surprised the English people in the choir were that the Australian singer and I were entirely unfamiliar with the hymn Jerusalem (from the poem by Blake). More than one person told me they would have thought we would have learned it in school, and I had to explain that it would be inappropriate in American public schools, as 1) it is highly religious, and 2) its central metaphor is about whether Jesus walked in England, which is not remotely relevant in North America...(nor for Scotland, NI, or Wales, which was also overlooked by several English colleagues who thought it would make an excellent national anthem for the UK).

    (the degree to which religious ideas are addressed in US schools varies among regions and is extremely controversial)

  12. I'm too young for this, but it seems to me likely that self-catering came into widespead use to distinguish a holiday from that of the Butlins camp variety, where all meals were provided ("full board").

  13. @Jo et al.: can I refer you to the comments policy (see link on front page), which asks you to not bring up new topics on the blog? I probably won't cover it if it's been requested in the comments, as it's not in my inbox, and anything you say here will not be searchable on blogger, so it doesn't help the project of letting people find info about BrE-AmE differences.

  14. It's a minor point, but I find 'self-catering' sounds wrong or maybe just cumbersome in conversation. I'd always say 'self-catered' - as in 'we're doing self-catered this year'. Ditto 'self-catered holiday'. I come from SE England. Maybe 'self-catering' is the norm elsewhere?

  15. What about the old-fashioned terms "European plan," "American plan," and "modified American plan?" Those were certainly in frequent use in my youth when we used to go to the Catskills for weekends. If I recall correctly, American plan means all meals included, MAP is two meals included (often you could choose which two and most people had lunch out), and European plan didn't include any meals. I believe the British equivalents would be full board for American plan and half-board for MAP.

    I don't see those terms often anymore, but they do show up in ads for resort hotels, whether in the Catskills or the Caribbean.

    And package holidays are not all that uncommon among Americans, though often to resort destinations. I see ads in every newspaper travel section for deals with airfare and 7 nights hotel in some beach destination (Bermuda, Mexico, Caribbean islands).

    The mini-break I've seen advertised in the UK does not seem to exist in the U.S., however.

  16. You mentioned flat/apartment. I don't know if this is just me but I get the impression that these days in the UK "flat" obviously refers to a permanent place to live but isn't used that much for referring to holiday accommodation of that kind. In other words, it seems to be more common to say "holiday apartment" rather than "holiday flat" in the UK nowadays.

  17. Self-catering is also often used to refer to university accommodations. This was one of many things I had to puzzle out in selecting my accommodation for my first year of postgraduate study.

    (Not being a fresher, I opted for self-catering. Eating British institutional cooking was not on my list of things to do in life.)

  18. Does AmE use the terms 'half board' and 'full board', which are often used in BrE for hotel stays and package holidays?
    Half board = breakfast and dinner included; full board = all meals included - presumably these are the equivalent of 'American Plan' and 'Modified American Plan'?

  19. Not just Butlins, Nick, but the traditional hotel holiday or the old-fashioned "seaside landlady" would have provided meals.

    I'm shortly off to Shropshire with a group of friends who have been going there for many years to sing together for a week. Until recently we stayed in what we always described as "holiday flats" (due to the sale of that property, we have moved to some farm cottages). Although we do sometimes eat out, a feature of the week is cooking huge communal meals!
    Kate (UK)

  20. I will assume that this sort of thing is what they are referring to in the Movie of The Who's Tommy when they sing about a "Holiday Camp"
    I made that assumption long ago but it is nice to think that I guessed right.

  21. For me, "self-catering" can't just be a token keetle and microwave. There must [I have just decreed] be sufficient cooking and dining equipment to produce a sit-down three-course meal for four people. [Not that you are obliged to do so, of course.] A fortiori, a camping holiday is not "self-catering", even if you hunt and gather all your own meals.

    Also, "self-catering" may be in a standalone cottage or villa; but it may also be in a complex of chalets or apartments. Sometimes such a complex will also include catered accommodation.

    @Neil: google searching
    * for "self-catered": about 26,200
    * for "self-catering": about 1,510,000

  22. While the term B&B is fairly new to North America, the concept isn't. Tourist homes have been around a long time (my 89-year-old father-in-law, staying in a B&B, called it that), and boarding houses (which of course normally provide full board) go back to colonial days.

  23. Oops, saved prematurely.

    Googling for "tourist home" shows a lot of places using both tourist home and B&B in their names; the term is also very common in the Indian subcontinent, seemingly.

  24. I'm with mollymooly on this one - your decree should be promulgated to all holiday companies! Self-catering ought to mean proper cooking equipment, and in my experience it always has (even in Greece when the brochure said facilities might be limited) but maybe I've been lucky.

    Thus I (Br) would never describe a hotel room as self-catering, whether or not meals were provided by the hotel. Since Americans can choose to stay in a hotel or rent a cottage, I can't buy Lynne's explanation that the distinction isn't relevant in the US because of the absence of full board as a standard arrangement.

    I'd also like to suggest that package holidays are a red herring - packageness is a different quality and you can have any combination of package/non-package, self-catering/non-self-catering.

    To digress: a great advantage of self-catering is that you can cook local goodies (samphire from the beach, fish from the market). The downside can be dissatisfaction with my kitchen at home when, as has occasionally happened, I've encountered a better equipped and organised one on holiday! (Some friends once rented a very posh holiday cottage whose kitchen contained a chain-mail mitten. Its purpose, I guessed, was to hold oysters while you prise them open. At £205.00 from Amazon, that item's not in my batterie de cuisine.)

  25. @ David. I've only ever once found a self-catering kitchen that really lives up to my standards, and would never dream of going to a strange place without at the very least a wooden spoon, a tin-opener and a knife-sharpener! And, arguably, a corkscrew. One place we go to, I need to take serving-spoons, as well as a sharp knife (we drive there, so I can). And, of course, salt, pepper, herbs, proper coffee and my "manual" coffee filter....

  26. "I'm finding that increasingly one can get a room in a hotel without breakfast in the UK (for a lower price), just as in the US provision of included-in-the-price breakfast (or at least doughnuts and coffee) has increased."

    I'd expect as a default that a motel style chain such as Travelodge would be room only, but a 'proper' hotel would have at least a continental breakfast included. That said the latter doesn't always happen in practice.

  27. Bill - the 'Holiday Camp' in the song is not related to Anonymous's gathering of friends for huge communal (self-catered) meals! Oh no!
    The UK holiday camps date from the post-war era when money was tight, standards and aspirations were lower ... they resembled barracks or miltary training camps. Families stayed in 'chalets' and were woken by tannoy to begin the day with communal breakfast, various activities, communal lunch, sporting activities, communal supper, home-made entertainment from the 'Red Coats' (at Butlin's camps) or similar staff at other camps (Pontin's was the other big name). Glamorous Granny competitions, ballroom dancing, talent contests - when some now-famous acts received their first chance - were part of the evening revues. It all sounds horribly unsophisticated and rather down-market now, but it served a need for fun and meeting new people when the nation was emerging from six grim years.

  28. So rather more like the 'camp' in Dirty Dancing then, biochemist?

  29. ----"The UK holiday camps date from the post-war era when money was tight, standards and aspirations were lower ... they resembled barracks or miltary training camps."-----Nope. Butlin's first holiday camp was opened before the war in 1936 in Skegness, and there were ones before.

    The reason Butlin founded his, and the reason they became popular, was the awfulness of that archetypal British Institution the seaside landlady. It was standard for the harridan to throw all guests out during the day, which with British summers was a recipe for 'Misery, oh misery!'.

    Holiday camps weren't the most downmarket, which would be the tents and caravan parks, but they would have been looked down on as 'common' by the lower-middle classes, and thus were the enclave of the working and upper-working classes.

    You actually had the choice of full-board, half-board and self-catering at many of the camps.

    My Dad had a stroke of genius when he built his church on the other side of the road opposite the beach about fifty yards from the Prestatyn Holiday camp on the other side. Until the end of the sixties the Northern Working class was very religious and wouldn't have dreamt of not going to church on a Sunday, but was not so fervent as to insist on searching for its own denomination in a strange resort, so my Dad's church bagged pretty well the lot of them in Summer.

  30. "but was not so fervent as to insist on searching for its own denomination in a strange resort"

    Now this is a small point that I find fascinating...of course, I was riased Roman Catholic, so I may be ignorant of this sort of thing...but going to a different denomination's church just sounds completely out of left field to me. Is this a common thing? In either the UK OR US? (Not meaning to hijack the comments with this.)

  31. @Bill - I doubt a catholic would have darkened a protestant church's doors, but within the protestant (and particularly the non-conformist protestants, i.e. not Anglicans) the minor distinctions between the various 'chapels' would have been easier to overcome.

  32. In Glasgow (and possibly the rest of Scotland, although I doubt it) a chapel is always and specifically a Catholic church, sometimes rhyming slanged as "the pineapple". As a boy it confused me to hear the churches in places like Edinburgh Castle referred to as "St. Margaret's Chapel" and the like.

  33. @ Cameron: This is true in Northern Ireland, too, but in Southern England a "chapel" tends to be non-conformist! Confusing, or what?

  34. In the Republic of Ireland "RC chapel" came off the Ordnance Survey maps after 1922. And the "cabins" of the peasantry became "cottages"; the large two-storey country cottages of England could never be called cottages over here.

  35. I'm currently seeing an ad for self-catering apartments on the front page. It has the slogan, "Your at home seriously".

    Leaving aside the "your" vs. "you're" issue, I would think that being anywhere "seriously" might be less than a sparkling endorsement in the eyes of someone looking for a vacation/holiday.

    Note: Before re-reading this comment, I had "ringing endorsement". I don't think that "ringing ... in the eyes" quite conveyed the image I wanted, though. 8-)

  36. I (Am) also recall the "American Plan" and "European Plan" descriptions from my youth, but one scarcely encounters them anymore on the left side of the pond.

    Shuan Clarkson is correct that North American hotels are increasingly offering breakfast as part of the price of a room, though the phenomenon seems to be restricted primarily to the mid-range hotels, particularly those chains which cater to families and private travelers(Comfort Inn, Best Western, Shilo, Rodeway, etc.) If low-end chains such as Super8 offer "breakfast" it's likely to be bad coffee and a cellophone-wrapped danish with a sell-by date measured in centuries.

    And hotels catering to the business traveler and luxury market almost never include breakfast because such guests are either on an expense account or don't need to count their pennies, and thus the hotel can increase its gross margin handily from high-priced breakfasts served to a more-or-less captive audience.

  37. Darcherd, actually I was quoting Lynne in the first part of my post and my own comment was from a UK perspective. It's a good few years since I was last in America. Off the top of my head I don't remember ever getting breakfast included with a room there. (Of course there was free ice in volumes you'd never see here in the UK!)

  38. Lynne, it warms my heart that your hometown is Newark. I'll have to check out the B&B next time I'm home visiting my family in Palmyra.

  39. I've come across a new term in the eastern US: Modified American Plan. That is breakfast and dinner included with the room.

    Super-8s these days have a reasonable breakfast, with yogourt and waffles and toast and muffins (cupcake-sized raised sweetened bread, often with nuts or fruit in them) and English muffins (round flat plainish things with holes to soak up lots of butter).

  40. This might be a good place to note the UK-US difference in "bed and breakfast".

    In the UK, a B&B means basic digs. It's a place to sleep and put your bags, and have breakfast in the morning (and maybe dinner in the evening at extra cost), and that's pretty much it. Useful when passing through a town for a day or two, or as a base for a very cheap holiday for students or broke young couples.

    In the US, a B&B is usually a pricey private hotel with lots of frills and furbelows. You're expected to consider it a destination in itself, a fancy hotel combined with a homely or family feel.

  41. Robbie, I thought that was the point I'd made!

  42. In England and Wales (and Ireland before 1923), church was a term of legal significance: it could only be applied to a building belonging to the Church of England (or Ireland) by law established; all other religious buildings, be they never so grand, were in law chapels. Whether this meant 'Catholic' or 'non-conformist Protestant' in ordinary speech would naturally depend on how many of each sort were around. Even in Ireland, the older generation (I'm told) still avoids going to church in favor of going to Mass or chapel.

    When the Welsh Church was disestablished in 1920 (the opposition to this being known of course as anti-disestablishmentarianism), the law doing so referred to the "properties of the Church [of England] in Wales", with the odd effect that Welsh Anglicanism is now called The Church in Wales rather than of Wales.

  43. Aviatrix, those aren't English muffins, those are crumpets. English muffins have no holes, they're just flat bread type things that are nice toasted.

    To me, self-catering accommodation has a slight connotation of increased privacy compared with hotels and B&Bs - you're often in a separate building, not just a room next door to strangers, potentially with paper-thin walls. You also don't have members of staff watching you as you come and go.

  44. @anonymous: Aviatrix does mean 'English muffins', since she's not talking about muffins in England. They're a North American delicacy, and nothing like crumpets except in that they are similar size and have holes. Please see the 'baked goods' post for more info!

  45. What I (AmE) have always found particularly jarring about the term "self-catering" is that catering has a specific meaning of "serving food to other people," e.g. at what we'd refer to as a "function" (a class of gathering whose Venn diagram intersects with, but neither entirely includes nor is entirely included within, "party").

    It would be perfectly logical to say something like "I don't feel like cooking for Thanksgiving this year, so I'm going to have it catered" - the point being precisely that someone else is doing the cooking. "Self-catering" sounds like an oxymoron. (The only other thing it could be would be an absurdly complicated and pretentious way to say "cooking" - the equivalent of "self-chauffeuring" for "driving.")

    As a side note, the BrE construction "cater for" also sounds wrong to my ears. We cater to people's needs, never for them. I'm not sure, but I think BrE may even refer to catering for the people with the needs rather than the needs themselves, which sounds two kinds of wrong. A hotel that offers babysitting services might say that it caters to the needs of parents of small children. Would the equivalent in BrE be "catering for parents with small children"? (And wouldn't that be understood instead as "serving food at functions hosted by parents of small children"?)

  46. I can remember being miffed the morning after staying at the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in 1985 to discover that breakfast wasn't included and had to be paid for. My American partner explained that that was the norm in the US, which I hadn't yet visited. I'd stayed in motels in Canada before without breakfast, but then the idea of a motel was a novelty to me and I was aware that they were a convenience not a luxury.

    Lynne is right to point out the huge spread of standards in B&Bs – my fondest memories of lavish breakfasts in wilder parts of Scotland abide with me, but there was also an explosion of urban B&Bs in the 1980s, exploiting loopholes in the laws introduced to deal with a huge increase in homelessness. As a local councillor in London I went out for a day with the inspectors whose job was to ensure that at least the letter of the law was applied; alas they had no power to do more. A mother and two children could be found sharing a rickety bed in a tiny room in a house where the owner provided a bowl of cold hard-boiled eggs in the morning to meet the minimum criteria of 'breakfast', this ensuring that the residents had no rights or security whatever.

    Lynne, may I go off-topic to correct something I find myself correcting much too often as it's one of my bĂȘtes noires? Jill wrote:

    I was amused at how surprised the English people in the choir were that the Australian singer and I were entirely unfamiliar with the hymn Jerusalem (from the poem by Blake).

    and provided a link to Blake's long illustrated poem called Jerusalem. However, the lines beginning

    And did those feet, in Ancient time

    come from the preface to another long Blake poem called Milton, and are set to the tune called Jerusalem by Hubert Parry.

  47. I lived somewhere like that for a few months in 1979, not because I was homeless but in the hiatus between my flat's coming to an end and getting married. No hard-boiled eggs - "breakfast" was a slice of white bread, a pat of butter, and a tea-bag!

  48. Ted

    It's a bit late, but I feel this deserves a riposte.

    "Self-catering" sounds like an oxymoron. (The only other thing it could be would be an absurdly complicated and pretentious way to say "cooking" - the equivalent of "self-chauffeuring" for "driving.")

    It's entirely a matter of context. Catering is a service offered in contexts where people do not prepare meals for themselves.

    Paid holiday accommodation is one such context. — the norm of a holiday is that meals are special and you don't cook or prepare them yourself. In hotel accommodation all meals are offered, in B&B only one, and in 'demi-pemsion' (sometimes half-board' in English) two meals are offered. Of course, if you go camping, or if you hire cottage, flat or wherever, then catering is not the expected norm — but nor are such other housekeeping services as having your beds made.

    is the perfect term for the in-between accommodation which provides all the services missing from many campsites and rented rooms/flats/houses — with the sole exception of catering.

    There's nothing illogical in self-chauffeuring. It's just that the context would be odd. There are many contexts where a customer might expect the context of a driver. There are fewer, but still some, where a customer requires the service of the same driver in the same car over and extended period.

    In these contexts, people who normally drive themselves hire the service of car+driver. For the reduced service of car only, we use the logical term 'self-drive'.

    There are contexts where you want the driver to be in a recognisable uniform — because of the prestige and/or formality of the event you're going to. It's not impossible to think of a context where you might require a chauffeur-driven car without a chauffeur, but it in rather far fetched. The necessary conditions would be:

    • It's occasion where people are expected to arrive in chauffeur-driven cars.
    • You can't afford one — or don't choose to.
    • You're able to park your car, remove your chauffeur's hat and introduce yourself to the hosts without being noticed.

    Now that's what I call self-chauffering.

  49. Mrs Redboots

    I lived somewhere like that for a few months in 1979,

    Longer than that and it would have been called 'service flat'.

    not because I was homeless but in the hiatus between my flat's coming to an end and getting married.

    Younger readers must be wondering why you didn't move in with your future husband. If your younger self were in this position today, surely that's what she'd do. OK, you've told us that you're a lay preacher, but surely today's congregations would believe you if you explained that it was all chaste and proper.

  50. The past, David Crosbie, is another country - they do things differently there!

  51. Massachusetts-

    @David Crosbie

    To riposte your riposte, as Lynne mentions in here other post on catering, Americans use catering less broadly than the English.

    Just as you make a distinction between self-chauffeuring and self-driving, an American would make a similar distinction between self-catering and self-cooking.

    I also pause at your description of self-drive as the "logical" term.

    Logical is a loaded term in dialect discussions much as "correct" is.

    Language can be standard or non-standard, consistent or inconsistent, but rarely logical.

    Logic itself of course has its own language.

    In regard to the original post, my experience of traveling in America is that while the default unstated arrangement is to receive no breakfast with your room, most hotels, even cheap ones will advertise a buffet-style "continental breakfast". This usually includes coffee, orange juice, milk, cold cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage bagels and muffins. It often includes pancakes, toast or french toast and whole fruit.

  52. Albert

    I do not 'make a distinction between self-chauffering and self-driving'. The formal difference is obvious. It's hard to make any other comparisons because neither is an established word. Self-driving looks more plausible because of its obvious relationship to self-drive. Self-chauffering is a hypothetical term that Ted invented to make a point.

    Self-catering is (in Britain) an entirely established term. The tourism industry couldn't do without it — they'd have to invent a word with exactly the same meaning. Self-cooking is another hypothetical fabrication. And there isn't a related word such as self-cook on which to base an interpretation.

    What I'm sure Ted meant by illogical is 'It doesn't make sense' — in this case doesn't lend itself to interpretation by analysis. I used the word logical to mean no more than 'Yes it does make sense' — in this case is interpretable from meanings of self- and catering.

    OK, it's the less usual sense of self- when compounded with a verbal noun. In words like self-doubt, self-loathing, self-control it related to the OBJECT of the transitive verbs doubt, loathe, control.

    But there's another sense of self- compounded with verbal nouns:
    self-assembly where you 'assemble it yourself' whereas it's customary to buy the furniture (or whatever) already assembled in a factory or workshop
    self-study where you 'study the teaching material yourself ' whereas it's customary to be taught be a teacher/instructor/lecturer.

    For me at least self-drive and self-catering make sense in just the same way

    • a self-drive van is 'a van that you drive yourself' whereas it's customary to hire a van with a driver to shift the amount of stuff that fits in a van.

    • a self-catering holiday/cottage/apartment is 'a holiday/cottage/apartment where you do the catering yourself' whereas it's customary for the owners to supply catering — procuring of food and preparation of meals — as part of the deal.

    If a travel firm were to offer self-cooking accommodation, I'd be very surprised but I'd try to make sense of it. I would, tentatively, conclude that they were promising to supply sufficient food for meals, and the necessary equipment and utensils to cook it myself.

    The whole argument may simply reflect different AmE and BrE understandings of the word catering.

  53. so it's a little late in the game, but I see other recent comments.

    Coming from western Canada I've never seen the term 'self-catering' before reading this post.

    The standard expectation I'd have from various places to stay away from home would be:
    motel or inn - no food
    hotel - no food unless they mention 'continental breakfast included'
    B&B - breakfast only (and fancy)
    resort - either no food -or- "all inclusive" which means all food, & all drinks
    lodge/chalet - no food but a kitchen where you can prepare your own

    note for a hotel you may get a small room or one with a 'kitchenette' where you could prepare your own food

    the all inclusive resort in Mexico is a very popular package destination for many of my peers and was for our parents (boomers) too

    end note; I've never seen the term 'self-drive' either so I don't get a feel for it being any more plausible than the rest of these odd self- phrases

  54. Re-reading this, one point that was not made earlier was that package holidays first became popular in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s when there were stringent currency controls in place, and one could take very little money out of the country. If you booked a package holiday, everything was paid for before you left the UK, in sterling, so apart from a little money for drinks and souvenirs, you didn't have to worry. Obviously the convenience of having everything booked, and not having to wrestle with a foreign language was also a factor, but it was the currency controls that really helped the idea take off.

    In these days where you can just get cash out of the nearest ATM, no matter what country you are in, this seems amazing... the past, as I appear to have said some years ago upthread, is indeed another country!

  55. BrE. Vaguely on topic. Something no-one else has mentioned is that in the US, you only pay for the room, no matter how many occupants. Although this is becoming common in the U.K., it is still also very common for rates to be quoted as per person per room: worth checking before you book.


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