take-outs and take-aways

I've settled into Twitter by attempting a "Difference of the Day" each day, as well as passing on other (BrE) titbits/(AmE) tidbits of possible dialectal and cross-cultural interest.  There's only so much you can do in 140 characters, so most of the "differences" are over-simplified, as my Twitter followers and Facebook friends are happy to point out.  Yesterday's tweet inspired a fair amount of fine-tuning by readers.  It went:
In hono(u)r of Friday night, the Difference of the Day is AmE take-out (noun) and to-go (adj/adv) vs. BrE take-away.
Let's start with the BrE one.  Take-away is extremely flexible, both grammatically and semantically.  It can be:
A noun for the food that's been taken away:  We had a Chinese take-away.
A noun for a place that only sells prepared food to eat off-site: We went to the Chinese take-away.
An adjective for such food or place: a take-away pizza
A phrasal verb: Is that to eat here (or eat in) or take away?
On the last point: it's not really a full-fledged verb. You never hear anyone say We took out or We took out a pizza (or even worse, We took out a Chinese).  It's used mainly in the infinitive and mainly in the process of making or receiving a food order.  After the fact, you'd say We got a take-away, or some such thing.

A couple of readers pointed out that in Scottish English it would be carry-out (with the same grammatical range) rather than take-away.  I'll still call take-away BrE rather than just English English since (a) it's certainly spread that far, even if it's not the native term; there are businesses that call themselves take-aways in Edinburgh and Glasgow (though probably more that call themselves carry-outs, it's true) and (b) 'non-Scottish' doesn't necessarily mean 'English'--there are other parts of the UK tooOn point (a), there are over a million hits for each of take-away+Edinburgh and carry-out+Edinburgh, and the Glaswegian equivalents--in fact, one of the first hits is www.glasgowtakeaways.co.uk.

Damien Hall wrote to say:

I haven't checked this, but I think I've heard that this is a demonstration of a classic dialectological phenomenon, two varieties with an intermediate transition zone in between: so Southern English take-away, Scots carry-out, and I think some bits of Northern English say take-out.
Damien has remembered correctly.  I found this quotation in "The study of dialect convergence and divergence: conceptual and methodological considerations" by Frans Hinskens, Peter Auer, and Paul Kerswill (in their edited collection Dialect Change, Cambridge University Press, 2005):
Whenever dialect mixing leads to the stabilisation of the variants that are typical of the respective ‘pure’ lects along with additional ‘compromise’ variants, one usually speaks of fudging (cf. Chambers and Trudgill 1998: 110–118; Britain 2002, 2004). [...] a similar, more recent, example from British English, discussed by Trudgill, concerns central and southern take away, the northern variant carry out, and the intermediate take out, which is used in the southern part of northern England.
Incidentally, if you're getting fish and (BrE) chips, you generally don't need to mention that it's take-away.  As we say in Linguistics, fish and chips are unmarked for taking-away--it's far less usual to have your fish and chips in a restaurant. A (BrE) fish-and-chip shop is perhaps the archetype of British take-away establishments, and they most often don't have seating for eating-in.

On to the American: take-out does not have quite the range that take-away does, since it shares the work with to-go (which we have discussed a little bit already)A friend pointed out that he'd say carry-out for pizza or Italian food.  And you know what?  So would I.   I'm not sure why this is--it doesn't seem to be particularly regional, since my friend is from California, living in Illinois, and I'm from New York state.

The noun take-out has a very New York City feel to me, but that's probably just because I grew up in a part of the state that didn't really have take-out establishments (fast food, yes; Chinese restaurants, no) in my long-ago (1970s/80s) youth.  The fast-food places would ask if you wanted your food for here or to go.  (Indeed, I had to ask that myself during my two stints of McDonald's purgatory-on-Earth.)  The pizza places ask if you want it for carry-out (or also pick-up) or delivery.   For me in my youth, getting a take-out was what people on television did--though getting carry-out pizza was a regular treat for us.

A completely non-linguistic aside: it can be funny to reali{s/z}e how atypical one's everyday foods can be.  For me, pizza is the food of childhood (perhaps it wasn't so in other parts of the US way back then--I'm not sure. The northeast has had plenty of Italian immigration.)   Better Half was introduced to pizza when he was about 13 at Pizzaland, where they served up a half a pizza with a (BrE) jacket potato/(AmE) baked potato and cole slaw.  I still get the giggles whenever he mentions it.  (His sister's mother-in-law made it into her 70s without ever having had pasta.  She was not impressed when Sister-in-Law introduced her to it.)  I also find it funny that some English people say to me that they couldn't eat pizza often.  I reply: but you have sandwiches every day--what's the difference? It's another way of having bread with cheese, meat or veg and condiments.  (It becomes clear in most cases that we're never going to see eye-to-eye on this.  But as a conciliatory point, I really like British pizza--which is more like what one gets in northern Italy. Thin, olive-oily crusts and top-rate toppings.)

On the other hand, a few English people have asked me how curry here compares to Indian food in the US, and I have to explain that I never had Indian food until I moved to South Africa in my mid-20s--and that I have never lived in an American town that had an Indian restaurant (though some of the towns have changed by now--though their Indian places are generally fairly fancy, not the kinds of places you'd get a take-away/take-out curry from).  I still haven't acquired the British native's facility with an Indian menu. I can tell you that I like dupiazas (or dopiazas), that chicken tikka masala is supposedly the national dish of the UK and that kurmas (or kormas) are for (orig. AmE) wimps.  Other than that, I have to read all the fine print on the menus.  Here's a cheat-sheet if, like me, you need one...


  1. Back in the 1970s, "pizza pie" was heard (BrE).

    You didn't mention "fish supper" (ScE) as a regional variant on fish and chips.

    Before McDonalds became universal, the BrE burger bar was mainly represented by Wimpy which, if I remember right, had waitress service.

    A great cross-cultural favourite for a take-away at university in the early 1980s was chips in curry sauce. Great late at night after several pints of Old Peculiar.

  2. Pretty interesting. Where I live, though, all four are used more or less interchangeably. I usually use to-go when ordering from a fast food sort of place, where I have to tell them up front whether I want to eat my food there or not. I personally don't use take-out much, but it is common. I only use carry-out for Chinese. Everything else is take-away, though that's fairly unusual for the area.

  3. @Anonymous: I also didn't mention fish fries, the (sit-down) fish dinners that people in my area of NY go for on Friday nights--often at places like the American Legion or similar clubs where older people hang out.

  4. Something I find fascinating is the way that, in the UK, where Indian takeaways and restaurants are extremely common and have been for years, there is still no standardised spelling for many of the common dishes (naan/nan bread being perhaps the most obvious example). Lynne, do you have any thoughts on this process and how long it takes? Or will we always have everyone spelling these words as they see fit without any accepted norms?

    On a side note, Indian takeaways were one of the things I missed most when I lived in the US. There was an Indian restaurant about 30 minutes drive away, but it was quite posh and you couldn't just order food to be delivered. I don't eat curries often, but when that's what you fancy, there's no acceptable substitute.

  5. Wimpy Burger also had knives and forks - how British :D

    In my family a carry-out curry has been shortened to a curry-out.

  6. I think the thing about spellings on Indian menus is that its spelled the way it is in the part of India the owner/chef (or their family) originated.

  7. @ros: I think 'how long' is probably not an answerable question. There are a lot of complicating factors here, including that these words are probably coming from several different South Asian languages (in which the vowels may very well be pronounced differently) at the same time and many of the people writing the menus are not first-language English speakers. And menus are laws unto themselves.

  8. I live in California, and I rarely use "take-out" when actually ordering food (though it is certainly my preference over carry-out, pizza included). If ordering something on the phone, I'd say the options are always "pick-up or delivery" and, if ordering at a place where you can eat there or take it to go, you would always say "to go."

    The only time I'd use "take-out" is when describing the category of food, as in "Do you feel like some take-out tonight?"

  9. Down here on Long Island, the choice for pizza is definitely "pick-up or delivery". The descriptor of choice is probably otherwise "take-out", though I can't say that I use it very often. We usually just "get Chinese food".

    The first time I ever had Indian food was when I went to school in Vermont about a year and a half ago. I think the naan was the best part.

    But another thing that I noticed while in Vermont was something that you only touched about in your post:
    Up there (which includes upstate NY, it seems) they say "for here or to go". That always bugged me, because, down here, we say "to stay or to go". Thoughts?

  10. "there is still no standardised spelling for many of the common dishes (naan/nan bread being perhaps the most obvious example)"

    I've rarely seen "nan"; surely the most glaring variation is for "[Pp][aou]pp?[aou]d[aou]m".

    BTW Ireland is "take away", not "carry out". And here most "chip shops" are not "fish and chip shops". Unfortunately, we didn't get enough Jewish immigrants in Victorian times. Our chippers are run by Italians and sell burgers and possibly fried chicken or *maybe* fish.

    Is there any other kind of take-away joint that's called a "shop"?

    1. I recently heard a middle-eastern takeaway referred to as a "falafel shop".

  11. When we moved to Edinburgh we were amused (and maybe a little horrified) to find that our neighborhood chip shop sold "Chicago-style" pizza. Ordinary pizza, with corn on top. Sorry, I don't think so.

    (This is what we think of as Chicago-style pizza -- no corn in sight.)

  12. Concur with those who note a lack of carry-out Indian food in the U.S.; my part of suburban Boston has a large Indian community, and several Indian restaurants, but I can't think of any place that aren't primarily sit-down. That said, most of them probably would do carry-out -- it's just not their principal mode of doing business. (Unlike the Chinese and Brazilian places which are constantly leaving advertising on my front door.) I'd have to think that Chinese and "Mexican" would be the most widespread ethnic restaurant categories, probably followed by Japanese, Thai, and then finally Indian -- there are no major national Indian chains. But (excluding fast-food franchises) there are probably more Chinese take-out places than any other. (I think the "Italian" niche is so thoroughly Americanized that it doesn't really count as "ethnic" any more, although there certainly are lots of restaurants around Boston and New York that do do traditional Italian-style "Italian".)

    One other observation: "Indian" restaurants are nearly always operated by India-Indians rather than Pakistanis here. (But most of the sushi chefs are Koreans, so there's some balance.)

  13. Wow, I'm surprised you other Americans don't have take out Indian food nearby. There's an Indian fast food place in every food court in my part of So. Cal, and at least a couple of buffet type places with many dishes on steam tables. I've seen similar buffets in Northern California too. Maybe this is because we're in an area where there are many Indian immigrants working in tech companies.

    The food court down the street from my office (which is unusual in that it's not part of an indoor shopping mall) has stalls for Chinese, Pho, Indian, French, Italian, Greek, Afghan, Mexican, and BBQ. Any of them can give you the food in disposable dishes on a tray or in a bag that you can take back to your office. The ubiquitous Starbucks and smoothie places have separate storefronts outside the food court.

  14. NYC has a lot of hole-in-the-wall take-out Indian restaurants as well... but in typical food-fad fashion I, at least, have moved well onto Korean and Sri Lankan food by now. (Although I'd get more Thai food if I didn't live right next to the largest Sri Lankan enclave in the city!)

  15. Where I live, north of Seattle, we have teriyaki take-out places in just about every strip mall. I'm not even sure what country their supposed to be from. Also, lots of Mexican restaurants in this area. The taco trucks are starting to pop up around here, too.

  16. I was taken aback by the number of Glaswegian cafes that gave me the option of take-away or sit in (slightly higher price to sit in).

    Having grown up in the 60's, “sit in” had a very different nuance.

  17. Old Peculiar is really Old Peculier, by the way

  18. I was going to point out "chip shop" rather than "fish and chip shop", but someone got there before me. Up here (Glasgow area) it's more often just a chippie, anyway.

    In Scotland, "supper" means "with chips" and "single" means without. Entertainingly, though, a single sausage is usually two, a single fish is usually one and a half, and a single smoked sausage is usually a half. This means you could ask, as comedian Bruce Morton pointed out, for "a single sausage but could you wrap it separately".

    For me, and I would estimate in common usage, a "carry-out" is generally reserved for alcohol and "takeaway" for food, although a food carry-out would certainly not seem weird. An alcoholic takeaway, on the other hand, would just be bizarre.

  19. anonymous and chris-- Wimpy still exists in some far-flung corners. And you can indeed get Wimpy take-away if you choose to. Don't think I'm a corporate shill, my partner is obsessed with Wimpy... and I must suffer the consequences.

  20. Indeed, there are still a couple of Wimpys near where I live in South London.

    If you eat pizza in France or even Germany, it is much more the Italian original - thin crust, taking up a huge plate, and rather fewer options for what you have on top of it. In the UK it can be like that, or you can get the thick-crust American style pizzas. Although yes, our vegetarian pizzas do have sweetcorn, and we think it wouldn't be a proper vegetarian pizza without! I'm planning on making it later in the week, and it will have sweetcorn on it!

  21. Some good points re chip shops/chippies and carry-out alcohol.

    The sweetcorn-on-pizza business has had quite a bit of attention already back here.

  22. -----"think the thing about spellings on Indian menus is that its spelled the way it is in the part of India the owner/chef (or their family) originated."-----

    Except most Indian restaurants aren't Indian at all but Bangladeshi. And the 'Indian' food they serve is in fact British in most cases.

  23. US, upstate NY.
    While carry-out I've heard, it's mostly that I order take out. Now if I'm in a fast food restaurant, they'll say, "to eat in or to go?"

    Take away has a whole different, and non-food meaning. You have a meeting or other event, and the take away (or takeaway) is the core message that event provided.

  24. In the part of Canada I grew up in we would have fish and chips, but often obtain them from a "chip wagon". Now it is still pretty common to find chip wagons (especially in rural/eastern Ontario), but they don't seem to have fish as often.

    I also notice that although everyone calls them "chip wagons/trucks" we have been inculcated with the American and refer to "fries" to refer to the items produced within (e.g.: tp://chowhound.chow.com/topics/392649)

  25. "One other observation: "Indian" restaurants are nearly always operated by India-Indians rather than Pakistanis here."

    In England (and maybe the rest of the UK) many if not most Indian restaurants are run by Bengali people, primarily from Bangladesh.

  26. I used to live near what is purportedly the most densely Indian-populated part of the US (Oak Tree Road in Edison/Iselin, New Jersey), half of my coworkers were Indian, and I've been to quite a few Indian restaurants. Surprisingly, I don't recall hearing any unusual (to me) terminology regarding takeout (though I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly what they called it).

    On a different note, I never heard take-away (That's the most important point of a meeting), carry-out, or sit in (you can sit in on a class or an exam without taking it). I've only seen take out used as a verb in poorly translated text ("Food to take out" was a sign on a Chinese restaurant). Pick up is something you order in advance, while "to go" is something you order when you have already arrived at the restaurant.

  27. To clarify, takeout as a description of the food is unremarkable to me, though mostly associated with Chinese, but I wouldn't use it when ordering.

  28. Drifting off topic, the expression "a poke of chips, [please]", referring to getting the chips in a paper bag or fold of newspaper as a wrapper, is quite common in Scotland, or was 20 years ago. Poke is an old word that is rarely heard in England (other than the proverbial "buying a pig in a poke")

  29. I expect Better Half ate his 'pizza pie' with a knife and fork in those far-off days - as indeed most Brits still do when presented with pizza on a plate.
    In 1969 I met some Americans in our student group in Paris - their jaws dropped when the Brits ate pizza this way - I had never seen anyone eat hot food with their hands before - in the UK even fish and chips were supplied with a little wooden fork in case you ate it from the paper (the alternative was/is to take it home and put it on a warm plate, and use cutlery).

    And Ros's point about spelling exotic food names - I can remember the introduction of yoghourt, in astonishingly sweet formulations, to the UK - now it's yogurt and we eat it au naturel.

  30. Really, @biochemist? I remember when yoghurt very first came in (I still spell it with an "h"), it was natural only; my mother, who liked it, would add a little Ribena to it. The over-sweet and rather nasty stuff came in later. Even now, I prefer natural yoghurt with a little flavouring - stewed fruit or even lemon curd - to the over-sweet shop stuff.

  31. A timely article on the role of chip shops in keeping dialectal differences alive!

  32. @anonymous:
    "the expression "a poke of chips, [please]"... is quite common in Scotland"

    But regrettably rare these days, as is the glorious "pokey hat" for ice cream in a cone.

  33. The discussion of pizza keeps reminding me of that scene in To Catch a Thief, in which Cary Grant offers his English guest some Quiche Lorraine, and the guest says, "yes, I have heard of it".

    Is quiche as common in the US as it is in the UK (and has been for 40 years)?

  34. To me (midwest AmE), take-out is only used as a generic. For example, I would ask "Do you want to get take-out?" but if the answer was yes, I would ask "What do you want to pick up?" I would pick up Chinese, but I wouldn't get Chinese take-out.

    I have been asked "take-out or eat in", but it is becoming "Here or to-go" more frequently.

    Sit-in definitely implies a non-violent protest of some kind, and I would wonder why a restaurant would want anyone to sit-in, but that might be because I now live in North Carolina (check out the Woolworth counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, if you need an example).

  35. I'm surprised that the professor quoted in the Sun article thinks "chip butty" is a Southern expression. I've hardly ever been into a Southern English chip shop, but "butty" for sandwich is definitely North-Western English.

    I was given a taste of natural yoghurt as a child in the early 60s and pulled a face! A decade later I spent a year in Switzerland and became addicted to the French-style "set" yoghurts, which were standard there and can be found here in the UK.

    Kate (Derby, UK)

  36. I think the Sun is making the mistake of saying "Wales" when they mean only a part of it. I never heard the term "bechdan" during my 20 odd years of living in South Wales. The mention that it is also used by Scousers leads me to believe it's probably a North Wales term.

    I miss rissoles terribly. I lived in Northern England for 4 years and was shocked to discover they were different, and now I live int he US and can't get anything even remotely similar. Whenever I'm back in Wales I make a point of buying a portion of Chips, a chicken pie, a jumbo sausage and a rissole. It's more than worth the feeling of being so full you can't move without exploding. :)

  37. I'm from Ceredigion and never heard 'bechdan' either. Bechdan looks Welsh but is not listed in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru/University of Wales Dictionary. Brechdan is a sandwich though so it could be a typo or related somehow.

    [The Welsh name for fish and chips is "pysgod a sglodion", shortened in common parlance to "'sgod a 'sglod", as demonstrated in Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm.]

  38. "In England (and maybe the rest of the UK) many if not most Indian restaurants are run by Bengali people, primarily from Bangladesh"

    It is the case in Edinburgh too that most "Indian" restaurants are run by Bangladeshis, but I think there are more Sikhs involved in the Indian restaurant trade through in Glasgow.

    Many, if not most, chip shops in Edinburgh are run by Italians. The largest sell an amazing array of carry out / take away / take out / food to go (I'm so influenced by the scripted utterances of McDonalds and Starbucks staff that I'm not sure what feels most natural to me now), including ice cream and pizzas (baked, or, for the natives, deep-fried), but also sometimes salads (shock horror: Scot eats vegetable!) and kebabs. As they are open sometimes into the wee hours, some of them also sell milk, tea bags, cigarettes, wine, beer and other items more usually associated with a convenience store.

    When I was growing up in the English Midlands (late '60s - late '70s), most chip shops were run by Greek Cypriots: those owned by my father (English) being an exception.

  39. "But regrettably rare these days, as is the glorious "pokey hat" for ice cream in a cone."

    A pokey hat from the "tally (Italian) man" eh?

    When I was a student in Sheffield in the late '70s / early '80s you would still occasionally see ice cream being sold from a traditional tricycle by the "hokey-pokey man" at the entrance to Weston Park.

  40. One type of food that is gaining ground in the US (faster than Indian I would say) is Middle Eastern Food...ie. Schwarma, Kebab, Saffron Rice.

    These places are often much more like a Carry out restaurant, with few to no chairs, whereas Indian (as mentioned before) is mostly more "formal."

  41. The Indian carry-out (as I would say) in my neighborhood in Chicago may be unique in the world- it's actually a combination Indian/Soul Food restaurant.


    It's neither the best Indian or Soul Food I've ever had, but on a cold day, a meal of Tandoori Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese is excellent comfort food.

  42. Good timing, I live on the south coast of the UK and recently started getting coffee from a cafe near work and noticed that while I (NorthernB rEng)always ask for 'a coffee to take out' they consistently re-phrase it as 'take-away' which I would only ever use for food I think, while 'carry out', as someone else mentioned, would be alcohol.

  43. There's something strangely satisfying about fish and chips wrapped in old newspapers - down here in the South of England they seem to have abandoned old newspapers in favour of sanitized white paper but 'up north' there are places they still use the newspapers. Is there an equivalent in the U.S. ?

  44. @biochemist: Conversely, I (an American from Hawaii, now living in London) see my British friends eat cakes with their fingers that I would expect to eat with a fork.

    My friends also use the term "take-away" to include phoning a take-away (non-sit-down) place for delivery - has anyone else noticed that?

  45. Esha - I was careful to specify that hot food was being eaten without cutlery in those long-lost days: we all eat take-away pizza with our fingers now!
    But cake - now, it depends on who made it and where it is being eaten. A British home-made sponge cake will contain butter or margarine; the hard fat will give strength to the finished cake and allow it to be eaten in the hand. In a posh tearoom or when eating a 'gateau' or other delicate confections on a plate, a fork is very useful, if not de rigeur. American sponge cakes tend to contain cooking oil I believe, which explains their soft texture and the need for a fork. Don't you love the way teenagers will use the paper cases round muffins or cupcakes as a hygienic way of holding them while eating?!

    We often think of France as a country where food is so well-respected that take-away shops would never be popular (well, that may have been so until recently) - but delicatessens there have always had a hot 'plat du jour' which is effectively the same thing - a way of bringing cooked food home - but it's usually a choice of one or two different dishes every day rather than a menu.

  46. Ordering food at takeaways has its BrE jargon. If two of you each want sausage and chips, you don't ask for two sausage and chips or you'll get two sausages and some chips in a worryingly damp bag advertising a local taxi-firm. You need to ask for sausage and chips twice. I don't mean you have to go into the shop on two separate occasions and ask for sausage and chips each time. Goodness me no. You use the word "twice". This doesn't work, I find, though, with central European staff who, when you ask for sausage and chips twice, ask if you mean two sausage and chips. You don't, but you give in in the interest of getting something to eat. If you're getting a takeaway from the takeaway and want to eat it in the street on the way home, you ask for it open. If you want it in paper so that the grease oozes through the old copy of the Brighton Argus into your raincoat pocket, you ask for it wrapped or wrapped up. In a rare departure from the otherwise surly traditions of British culinary customer-service, staff in chipshops will offer to put lashings of salt and/or vinegar on your takeaway, rendering it quite inedible. By law, every traditional chipshop must have a greenish glass-jar containing stagnant vinegar and curried eggs dating from the T'ang dynasty. There are also mummified BrE gherkins/AmE pickles which arrived in England under Roosevelt's lend-lease program(me). And then we come to the kebab-house, where a hapless animal's leg seems to have barbequed for weeks after an unsuccessful hip-replacement operation. In rougher areas of Leeds and south London, the takeaways have a counter that's about five feet above the ground with the proprietor (presumably standing on a box) grinning nervously at you. This is presumably to avoid stickups and raids by health-inspectors. I've never tried it but word has it that, if you attempt to pass a forged £50 note, the attendant hits a button which empties the deep-fat fryer on you. BTW, on Yorkshire Airlines, the Air Dorises bring you mushy peas at your seat, even if you fly working class.

  47. In Melbourne, Australia always take-away. No matter if its pizza or fish and chips or indian or anything. I've never ever heard anybody say take-out or carry-out or anything like that!

  48. Until moving to the UK four years ago (from Washington state, US), I would not have been able to make sense of the plural word 'curries'; there was one dish called 'chicken curry' and I didn't like it. I'm all better now. What about calling Chinese food 'curry'? I have friends in Glasgow who would go for a 'Chinese curry', which sounds strange to me.

  49. The best thing about fish and chip shops and indian/chinese carry-outs (standard usage here, 80 miles south of the southernmost border and another 100 miles from where significant numbers of Scots actually live) is that nobody has ever succeeded in making a national chain out of any of them, selling a standardised product. Round here blows have been exchanged over the relative merits of Andy's/York St/Bath St/Mattie's and others (apparently we have more chippies per head of population than anywhere else in the country. Ironically a free market in takeaway food thrives here where it fails in the land of McDonalds and free markets as religion! Andy's wins easily for me, not least because it's closest to the beach)

    Also, in the best chippies at least, the food is cooked to order before your eyes, and the fish that you see going into into the batter looks like a piece of fish and not an industrial fabrication of marine derivatives. Chippies with tired-looking pieces of battered fish lying in a warmer when no customers are waiting are to be avoided.

    There's a clear regional distinction: ask for fish without specifying a species in London and you'll get cod. If you want haddock or any of the other species Londoners tend to go for, like skate or rock salmon, you have to order it specially. Up here the default fish is haddock and you are unlikely to see anything else other than cod.

  50. Oh, I forgot to mention. Back in the 1980s Bobby's general store in Verona NY sold cold fried haddock on Fridays. It was breaded rather than battered in the British style and although the idea of cold fried fish seemed rather repellent I was as ever willing to try it, and found it delicious. Much better American fast food than I ever had from a chain.

    One further point: I don't think I ever heard any BrE speaker refer to "pizza pie" but I have heard the AmE Dean Martin sing:

    When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that's amore

    This is complicated because the song's lyricist was Jack Brooks, who was an American citizen by the time he wrote it but who was born in Liverpool. On the other hand, I'm sure his co-writer, the impeccably Italian-American Harry Warren, would have picked him up on it. For years I thought the phrase was 'piece uh pie' and that or perhaps 'pecan pie' would have fulfilled the need for both alliteration and rhyme, so if 'pizza pie' was alien to Americans there was no need to use it.

  51. As a Canadian, "take-away" is virtually unheard. Take-out (never "a take-out") is by far the most common, although I've heard carry-out once in a blue moon for something like pizza as well.

    Weird divisions of usage: I would use take-out (but never carry-out) to describe any food prepared at a restaurant and eaten at my home, even if I get it delivered. However, during the actual placing of the order by phone, I would only use take-out if I wanted to retrieve it myself (though I'd be more likely to say pick-up).

  52. Where I live (Midwest US) "for here or to go?" is an important distinction, as food eaten in the restaurant is taxed, whereas food taken out to eat elsewhere is not.

  53. Britain also used to have a distinction between taxed food eaten in and untaxed food taken away/carried out. But then VAT (valued added tax) was imposed on take-away food. The way the law was worded, this meant that burgers, fish and chips etc were taxed but no tax was levied on items like sausage rolls and cornish pasties that were still hot, or not yet cool ('ambient') or briefly reheated.

    George Osborne the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) got into huge trouble in his first Budget when he tried to extend tax to those items. It became known as the Pasty Tax and the Budget was dubbed an ominishambles.

  54. Pie on a sign:

    The Old Saybrook, Connecticut, railroad station has a restaurant called Pizzaworks. The whole wording, at least on the sign facing the tracks, is "Pizzaworks: Pie and suds." In context, the pie is pizza and the suds are beer.

  55. Thanks to this post I've finally put my finger on why I object to Finns calling coffee for consumption off the premises as "takeaway -kahvi": takeaway should be for food, not drink. (Similarly, commenters have raised the link between carryout and alcohol.) The few times I've had to write about the phenomenon in Finnish, I've called it "mukaan otettava kahvi" ("coffee to be taken away"), rather than absurdly insert an English word.

  56. This posting is so funny! I watch lots of Brit TV..better than US, and I think the phrase: Making Dad's tea means making dinner? Or just tea? And chips are french fries? In upstate NY we call in and it's: pick up or delivery? We would never say: take away! And if we're talking to each other, it's: who is going to go pick up the food?! If we want pizza, Chinese, etc, it's just: pick up or delivery!

  57. Unknown, the possessive word Dad's gives it away.

    In Britain, tea traditionally served as social lubricant. To make tea was to prepare a pot of tea for sharing . Our speech reflects the myth that nothing has changed.

    To specify making somebody's tea implies that you're not preparing a beverage, but rather something that you will not be sharing in.

    [There are exceptions. Someone in a service capacity — a servant, a care-worker, a caterer, fo example — may make the beverage tea for someone else. And if you employing workmen in your home — builder, painters etc — you may make their tea at agreed break times.]

    Another way we speak as if still in the past is in expressing as the norm that the female home-maker prepares a meal for the returning male breadwinner. A combination of social and regional factors cause this meal to be called tea in many households. Current speech may reflect a bygone norm that children come home from school and eat with their mother, with the man of the house coming home later to be fed specially. A modern woman may live a very different life from this stereotype, but still use that wording that her mother used back in the day.

  58. BrE. (Scot, 60+) this discussion reminds me of an old, bad joke about the Last Supper, some cans of beer, and Judas’s carry-out. Fill in the blanks any way you wish.

  59. BrE. (Scot, 60+) this discussion reminds me of an old, bad joke about the Last Supper, some cans of beer, and Judas’s carry-out. Fill in the blanks any way you wish.

    1. I’m watching the old BBC show Murphy’s Law and they told the Judas’s carry-out joke, but I didn’t get it because I’m in Texas. I’ve read this whole thread I’m only on the cusp of understanding the joke, but not understanding how such a dumb play on words made it into the script.


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