Showing posts sorted by relevance for query sugar. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query sugar. Sort by date Show all posts

icing and frosting

In the meat post, I mentioned making Nigel Slater's recipe for 'ginger cake with clementine frosting'--which appropriately raised the question of why I hadn't marked frosting as AmE. I've changed it now to 'orig. AmE'; since Slater is a BrE speaker one can see that frosting has made inroads here.

But the AmE frosting = BrE icing equation is one of those things that is more complicated than one might assume. That's because icing is AmE too--it just refers to something more specific (at least for me and some others, as we'll see below). To illustrate, here are the ingredients lists (though I have abbreviated the measurements) from two recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Creamy White FrostingPowdered Sugar Icing
1 cup shortening
1.5 tsp vanilla
.5 tsp lemon extract
4.5 to 4.75 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp milk
1 cup powdered sugar
.25 tsp vanilla

First thing to note is powdered sugar, which is also called confectioner's sugar in AmE, but is called icing sugar in BrE. (I'd say powdered if it were on a doughnut, but confectioner's if I were using it in a recipe. According to the British Sugar website, powdered sugar is not as fine as icing sugar.) Second thing to notice is that the frosting recipe has a big hunk of fat in it (butter is usually used, cream cheese is another option), and the icing recipe doesn't. Now, I do not claim that this is always the case in every AmE speaker's use of icing and frosting, but it is the distinction the (orig. AmE) cookbook (BrE cookery book) seems to make, as neither of the icing recipes has any fat other than some in the milk. Without investigating the recipe, I can tell the difference between frosting and icing (in my dialect, at least) in that frosting (due to its fat content, no doubt) isn't hard or smooth. A glaze would have to be an icing, not a frosting. The UK also has a hard kind called royal icing and makes much more use than US of soft, roll-out fondant icing—all of which would be frosting in my dialect.

CakeSpy has an excellent article on the topic in which they take issue with the many (even expert) claims out there that frosting = icing. Here's an excerpt--remember, this is referring to American English:
This idea is backed up in a Williams-Sonoma release simply entitled Cakes, in which it is noted that icing is "used to coat and/ or fill a cake...similar to a frosting, and the terms are frequently used interchangeably"...but ultimately "an icing is generally thinner and glossier" than frosting, which is "a thick, fluffy mixture, such as buttercream, used to coat the outside of a cake." Of course, the book even goes on to even differentiate a glaze from the two as being "thinner than either a frosting or an icing"...which makes the slope all the more slippery--but does further define the difference between these sweet toppings.

I think that frosting the word is making its way into BrE because frosting the (fatty) thing is making its way in too. The standard cake topping in AmE is a buttercream frosting--but not so in BrE, where one of the most 'classic' cakes, the Victoria sponge, has jam and whipped cream in the cent{er/re}, but just some sugar on top. Christmas cake has royal icing, which is made with egg whites. The UK has taken to many American treats in recent years, such as the (orig. AmE) cupcake (click on the link if you want to bemoan the fate of the (BrE) fairy cake) and cream cheese frosting on carrot cake. I think that the more frequent use of frosting on these shores reflects an appreciation that it's a different kind of thing from icing, and therefore deserves a different name.

Before I go (to bed), a few items of 'any other business':
  • I'm finally making use of my Twitter account (lynneguist), which I'm going to use for linguisticky/cultury kinds of reflections/observations/incidents (saving the other stuff for Facebook). Having followers means something much more mundane these days than it did a decade ago, doesn't it? At any rate, you're welcome to become one...
  • My tweets today were about the fact that I was on (AmE) tv/(BrE) the telly--BBC One, no less--for a few minutes in the context of an hour-long documentary on Scrabble. If you're in the UK and interested, it's one of the better representations of Scrabble on the screen and can be seen on BBC iPlayer for the next week. (Of course I have my quibbles, particularly that they couldn't spell my name right. Sigh. But it was possible for even Scrabble scenesters to learn something from the international perspective in this one.) Rest of World readers, I'm afraid the site won't let you watch, as you don't pay into the BBC pot. (When are they going to stop linking (BrE) Television Licences to television ownership, I wonder?)
  • A sweet side note on Grover's linguistic development: She's a big fan of Cookie Monster, and sings 'C is for Cookie' with gay abandon, but it only struck me the other day how English my little girl is. She helped me cut out Christmas cookies, and when they were baked was eager to have one. She took her first bite and said with wonder '(BrE) Biscuit!' I don't know what she thought cookies were before this point, but now she's able to translate it into her own dialect. (Second birthday coming up in four days--wayhey!)
  • Merry/happy Christmas!
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flapjacks and pancakes

I cannot believe I've never written a post about the word flapjack. So here it is. 

In AmE, flapjack is a synonym for pancake, as is hotcake. Hey, it's a big country. We're allowed to have lots of words for things. 

Here in the south of England (at least), those things are often called American pancakes to differentiate them from the more crêpe-like English pancakes (often eaten with lemon juice and sugar). Then there are Scotch pancakes, also called drop scones, which are very much like American pancakes. I've seen one site that claims that Scotch pancakes have sugar in them but American pancakes have butter in them, and I can tell you that my American pancakes have a little sugar and no butter (but some cooking oil) in them, so I'm not believing that website. I'd say the main difference between Scotch pancakes and American ones is the size, with Scotch pancakes being closer to what are called silver dollar pancakes in AmE, which can have a similar circumference to a crumpet or (English) muffin—that is to say bigger than a silver dollar. (All links in this paragraph are to recipes.)

A few immigrant pancake notes:

  • I was really surprised (when I arrived 22 years ago) to find that in the UK one can buy cold Scotch pancakes in a UK supermarket. I'd never seen such a thing in the US. Maybe frozen ones for heating up, but not pancakes in the bread aisle of the supermarket. Even more surprised when I first saw someone eating them cold, straight out of the (more BrE) packet.

  • If you order "American pancakes" in England they (a) generally won't come with butter (what's the point?!) and (b) will be covered with so much sweet stuff that you will get a cavity before you've swallowed the last bite. At least around here, the pancakes themselves are pretty sweet, then they tend to put the maple syrup on before they serve it AND dust them with a ton of (AmE) confectioner's sugar /(BrE) icing sugar. I have mostly learned better than to order them, but my child hasn't. 
  • These days, with American pancakes being much more common in Brighton, the actual pancakes can be pretty good (though, as I say, often too much sugar in the batter). When I first moved here and only a handful of places served them, they were invariably undercooked in the middle. I assume this was because the cooks had been trained in English pancakes and couldn't believe a pancake could take so long to cook. The best ones in Brighton are now made by my English spouse, who's taken every food I've ever cooked for him and made it his mission to master it. 
Now, for BrE flapjacks. A completely different animal: a (BrE) tray bake made of oats, butter and usually golden syrup (click on the links for where I've covered those terms). I have seen recipes that call for honey instead of the syrup—you need something gloopy and sweet. If you want to get fancy, you can put other ingredients in, dried fruit being the most common addition. Here are some recipes

BBC Good Food Easy Honey Flapjacks

The closest things in the US are probably granola bar-type things, but they don't tend to be so solidly oaty. What the US does have, though, is oatmeal (raisin) cookies.

I've heard various American exchange students refer to flapjacks as one of the best things about England. The appeal eludes me. I'll eat one to be polite, but I'll gladly ignore them. I count that as a win. Any sweet thing that I can resist is a good kind of sweet thing. 

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candy and sweets

Did you know that the word candy comes from the Arabic word for 'sugar'? Well, I didn't until just now.

Since my post on baked goods has inspired comments on wine gums, I should say something about candy and sweets.

In BrE, candy refers to things that are made from sugar that's been melted (usually with water and some flavo(u)ring) and resolidified in some form, including boiled sweets (AmE = hard candy) and candy floss (AmE = cotton candy). Candies belong to the wider category of sweets, which includes chocolate, toffees, and anything else that you'd eat on its own in order to rot your teeth. When talking with children, they're often called sweeties. Sweet shops speciali{s/z}e in selling sweets.

In AmE you'd get them at the candy store, and they'd be called candy, even if they're made from chocolate or nuts or whatnot. Thus, in the US one eats candy bars such as a Milky Way, while in the UK one eats chocolate bars such as Milky Way. (Click on the link to read more about the difference between Milky Ways and other candy/chocolate bars in the UK and US.) Candy store also has its place in an AmE idiom: (to be/feel) like a kid in a candy store--that is, really excited and happy, due to some external stimulus. For example:
Lately he even gets offered more interesting work than he can handle, a problem he tends to solve by accepting all of it. He feels like "a kid in a candy store." [International Herald Tribune on jazz musician Chris Potter]
Like a child/kid in a sweet shop is used in this way in BrE, but it's not as established as an idiom.

Of course, there are lots of sweets/candies that are produced in the UK but not the US and vice versa (though Canada provides an interesting middle ground with some of both). But here are a few whose names create cross-dialectal confusion.

In BrE sherbet is a sweet-tart powder consisting of sugar, tartaric acid, bicarbonate of soda (AmE prefers baking soda), and mostly artificial flavo(u)rings and colo(u)rs. The closest thing in the US is probably the stuff in Pixy Sticks (straws filled with sweet-tart powder), but it's a bit different because sherbet is more fizzy (due to the soda). English friends my age get very sentimental about flying saucers (pictured left), which are (BrE) sherbet surrounded by a material that tastes and feels like communion wafers. When I was young, we played "church" with Necco wafers (pictured right). I wore a half-slip on my head to be a nun or a bride, depending on my mood. I feel rather cheated that we didn't have flying saucers to play church with, but other than their similarity to papery-tasting hosts, I don't really understand the appeal. But then, physical resemblance to communion hosts was just about the only appeal of Necco wafers as well.

In the US, sherbet is a frozen dessert that is like sorbet, but which usually has some dairy content (though not as much as an ice cream would). I don't think it's eaten as much now as when I was a child, since sorbet has become available and popular.

[This paragraph added later due to a comment from kathyf.] Smarties are small, colo(u)rful sweets/candies in both countries. UK Smarties (pictured left) are like M&Ms--milk chocolate in a candy shell, made by Rowntree/Nestle. They differ from M&Ms in the colo(u)r assortment, the quality of the chocolate (people tend to prefer the one they grew up with) and the fact that orange smarties have orange-flavo(u)red chocolate. (There's a lot more orange-flavo(u)red chocolate in the UK than the US.) US Smarties (pictured right) are little discs of mostly-sweet-with-a-little-tart pastel-colo(u)red sugary stuff, which crumbles when bitten. I've just described them to Better Half, and neither of us can think of something similar in the UK. They come in a stack wrapped in cellophane and are mostly known for being a candy/sweet one gets from cheap/tight grown-ups on Hallowe(')en.

BrE speakers are often amused by and curious about the AmE candy/sweet name taffy, as here Taffy is a derogatory name for a Welshman. The word is a variation on toffee, which is what BrE speakers would call the stuff. You don't want to go to the US and just start calling all toffees taffy, however. (Well, maybe you do want to, but you shouldn't.) For me, taffy is reserved for pulled taffy, which is a light colo(u)r or white because it has been repeatedly pulled into strings and reshaped, and has a fruity or minty flavo(u)r. Anything else that is toffee in BrE, for example chewy caramels, would be toffee in my AmE dialect as well. (Note that salt water taffy, despite its name and the fact that it's sold at the seaside, contains no sea water.)

Globali{s/z}ation means that the confectionery world is becoming smaller. I've already discussed some chocolate/candy bar names that have become more similar in the US and UK (click the Milky Way link above for the Marathon/Snickers story). Another source of UK resentment is that Opal Fruits changed their name to Starburst in 1998 to be in tune with the US brand. The confusing thing about this is that they're not quite the same. UK Starbursts are paler than the US ones, and a bit different in consistency, since they're vegetarian (the US ones contain gelatin). To my mind the worst part of this US name-imperialism is that the UK consumer gets the new name without the main benefit of US Starburst--the cherry-flavo(u)red one. UK Starburst has lime instead--but everyone knows that cherry is the best flavo(u)r.
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pickles, pickle, rutabaga and ??

Grant Barrett asked me how long I think it takes for a person to lose the intuition for what's in your own dialect and what you've acquired in a second dialect. I can't say when it's happened to me, but it's definitely happened, which is why all of my posts have references to Better Half and friends in America, etc.--those are the people who tell me when I say something US or UK to the wrong audience. Not only have I got(ten) used to saying British things (like have got instead of have gotten), I have also acquired an intuition for when I might need a British word that I don't know yet. For instance, I have, like the good English homeowner that I have recently become, started to learn about gardening, and even though I don't yet know all the British words for the tools, I am often inclined to ask "What do you call this?" before saying "I bought pruning shears". (The BrE term is secateurs.)

But I've also found that my 20-something-year-old students can be fairly insensitive to dialectal differences coming from me. I recently asked them to read a draft chapter of a textbook I'm writing, and to let me know if they came across any examples that didn't work for British English. Many of them pointed out American spellings--even though I'd explicitly told them not to. (Instruction-following is a skill that's unevenly acquired among my students!) Only one out of about thirty students noticed a glaring Americanism that was repeated several times in the chapter: the use of pickle as a count noun.

In the US a pickle is a cucumber that's been pickled, but in the UK such things are called dill cucumbers or, if they're not dill, pickled cucumbers. If you are American and like dill pickles, don't bother buying English ones, even if the bottle says kosher dills. They are all made with sugar and taste more like what I would call sweet pickles than like a good deli pickle. Some specialty shops sell decent, non-sweet ones imported from Poland. (See this more recent post for more on the meaning of cucumber.)

In the UK, pickle, also known as sweet pickle, is a condiment made of chopped vegetables and fruits pickled in vinegar and sugar or other sweet ingredient. Click here for a recipe for pumpkin pickle.

The most popular pickle in the UK is Branston pickle. If you're offered a cheese and pickle sandwich, it's probably got Branston pickle in it. The thing that I find most fascinating about Branston pickle is its list of ingredients:

Rutabaga from
Vegetables in various proportions (Carrots, Rutabaga, Onions, Cauliflower, Marrows, Gherkins), Sugar, Malt Vinegar - from Barley, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Chopped Dates (with Rice Flour), Apples (with Preservative: Sulphur Dioxide), Modified Maize Starch, Tomato Paste, Colour: Sulphite Ammonia Caramel, Spices, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Onion Powder, Garlic Extract.

You can see a number of BrE terms here: Spirit Vinegar (US: White Vinegar), Marrow (a type of squash that's not common in the US), Maize (US: Corn).

You can also see a number of BrE spellings: Sulphur/Sulphite as opposed to US Sulfur/Sulfite, and Colour, of course.

But which of these things is not like the other? It's rutabaga! One of the great mysteries of life (which was later solved!) is why an British product made in a British factory for British consumers has an altogether American word like rutabaga on its label.

Every year I run a pub quiz for our incoming Linguistics/English Language students and (despite the fact that the word is on a jar in most English kitchens) a question that always stumps them is "What is the British word for the vegetable that Americans call rutabaga?"

Do you know?

Click the link below for 'comments' to get the answer and some etymological info about rutabaga.

Click here for the big list of vegetables.
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Nominate WotYs & Untranslatables Month II

Two matters for this belated blog post:  Words of the Year nominations and the Untranslatables Month summary.

WotY Nominations
Long-term readers will know that we have (at least) two Words of the Year here at SbaCL, and nominations are open for both categories as of now:

1. Best AmE-to-BrE import
2. Best BrE-to-AmE import
The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2012, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year. I retain the editor's privilege of giving other random awards on a whim.

Please nominate your favo(u)rites and give arguments for their WotY-worthiness in the comments to this post. It might be helpful to see my reasoning on why past words were WotY worthy and other nominations weren't. Click on the WotY tag in order to visit times gone by.

Vote early and often! I plan to announce the winners in the week before Christmas.

Untranslatables II
Last year, as a birthday treat to myself, I declared October to be Untranslatables Month, which meant that I tweeted an expression that was unique to one dialect or another, in that its meaning was not captured by an expression in the other dialect. This year, I did it again, but made the job easier on myself by deciding not to tweet on weekends. Here's a summary of the 'untranslatables' I tweeted. In some cases, you can follow links to places where I (or someone) have discussed them in more detail.
  • BrE lie-in (noun). The act of staying in bed later in the morning than usual. Sleeping not required, but lazing is. Example: 'The family was away, so I had a lie-in on Saturday as an early birthday treat.'  (AmE & BrE both have sleeping in for when one sleeps late.)
  • AmE cater-corner, kitty-corner, catty-corner (regional variations), adj & adv, meaning 'diagonally opposite to'. Example: 'I live kitty-corner to the bordello'.
  •  BrE builder's tea. Very strong (hot, of course), basic (i.e. not a special cultivar/flavo[u]r) tea with milk and lots of sugar. The 'lots of sugar' part is in most definitions for it, but some of my correspondents don't consider 'sweet' to be a necessary feature.
  • AmE Nielsen rating. The television rating system that determines advertising rates, used figuratively as a measure of popularity. Example: 'When you give babies a choice of what to listen to, a kind of baby Nielsen rating, they choose to listen to mothers talking to infants' (from The Scientist in the Crib).
  • BrE It's not cricket. 'It shouldn't happen because it's not fair/proper'. Occasionally heard in AmE too.
  • AmE poster child. Figuratively, an emblematic case of something, esp. a cause. Originally a child on posters promoting a charity. This one has come into BrE--as untranslatables often do (because they're useful). In the US, it's especially associated w/the (US) Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is also responsible for the US's longest-running charity telethon. It's interesting how different diseases are 'big' in terms of fundraising in different countries...
  • BrE overegged describes something that is ruined by too much effort to improve it. From the expression to overegg the pudding.
  • AmE hump day. Wednesday, but with the recognition that it's a milestone on the way to the weekend. Though it's heard a bit on the radio in the UK, I'm not sure it'd work well in BrE because of interference from BrE get the hump (='get annoyed, grumpy'). (The sexual meaning of hump is present in both dialects.)
  • BrE bumf = a collective term for loose printed material/paperwork (forms, pamphlets, letters) that's deemed to be unnecessary. It comes from old slang for 'toilet paper': bumfodder.  Example: 'The hallway is littered with election bumf that's come through the door.'
  • AmE earthy-crunchy (noun or adj), Having 'hippie', 'tree-hugging' tendencies. Synonym = granola.
  • BrE white van man. I mentioned it on the blog here, but there's more about it here.  Though I've read of white van man making it to the US, white vans are much more common and much more associated with skilled manual trade in UK. Some American correspondents had assumed it meant serial killer or child molester, which is not usually the intended meaning in BrE. 
  • AmE antsy. 1. fidgety and impatient, 2. nervous, apprehensive. Has been imported to UK somewhat, but mostly in sense 1.
  • AmE visit with. To chat with someone, especially if you're having a good catch-up.
  • BrE for England. To a great extent. Example: 'He can talk for England'. There's no for America in this sense, but in South Africa, for Africa is used in the same way. And perhaps elsewhere. So, 'untranslatable' to AmE.
  • AmE soccer mom or hockey mom (regional). A (middle-class) mother who spends much time ferrying kids to practice.
  • BrE sorted (adj & interjection): Most basically, it means something like it's all sorted out. 'My blog post? It's sorted!' But its meaning has extended so that can mean, of a person, basically 'having one's shit together'. Example: 'With all my new year('s) resolutions, I'm certain I'll be fit and sorted by April'. Collins also has it as meaning 'possessing the desired recreational drugs'. Deserves a blog post of its own.
  •  AmE freshman/sophomore/junior/senior. Names of the people in the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th years of secondary (high) school and undergraduate degrees. Fresher is used somewhat for university 1st years in UK, but generally the university years do not have (universally applied) special names in the UK.
  • BrE gubbins. To quote the Collins English Dictionary:
    1. an object of little or no value
    2. a small device or gadget
    3. odds and ends; litter or rubbish
    4. a silly person
  • AmE to tailgate. To have a party where food/drink served frm a vehicle's tailgate. Mentioned in this old post. (Both dialects have the meaning 'to drive too closely behind a car'.)
  • BrE for my sins = 'as if it were a punishment'. Often used to mark a 'humblebrag'. Example (from the British National Corpus): 'I happen for my sins to have been shadow Chancellor since the last election in 1987.'
  • AmE the (academic) honor code. Ethical guidelines that students must follow. Of course, UK univeristies have ethical guidelines for students, but there's not really a term that covers them all, like honor code does. Also, US honor codes typically require that students turn in other students whom they know to be cheating. This does not seem to be as frequently found in UK academic conduct rules.
  • BrE locum. Someone who stands in for someone else in a professional context, particularly doctor or clergy member. This is a shortened form of locum tenens, which one does see a bit in AmE medical jargon these days (but not just locum, and not in general use).
Whether I do Untranslatables Month again next year remains to be seen...

Don't forget to leave your WotY nominations in the comments!
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I've done posts on cream and milk and sugar-refining by-products and other kinds of sugar have come up in passing. Now it's flour's turn, thanks to encouragement from my friend Sandra.

I'm just going to do it as a list:

plain flour             all-purpose flour
strong (bread) flour       bread flour
wholemeal whole wheat
[no such thing] cake flour
corn flour cornstarch
corn/maize meal corn flour, corn meal
self-raising flour* self-rising flour*
[no such thing] Wondra (instant flour)
00 flour fine flour

 *Postscript from 2020: @BNW informs me that self-raising and self-rising differ a bit: "It seems like the AE self-rising flour has less baking powder, added salt, and a slightly softer/lower-protein flour.". So substitute with caution.
There's also very strong bread flour, which seems to be extra strong in Canada. I can't find a US equivalent. It has even more gluten/protein than regular bread flour.

Photo: - CC BY-SA 2.0, Link
Because bleaching flour is illegal in UK (see the link across from cake flour above), unbleached flour is mostly an American collocation.

AmE uses pastry flour more than BrE does. Sometimes in BrE that would be 00 flour--but 00 flour can also be more yellowy pasta flour. (I think I may have heard patisserie flour on Great British Bake-Off, but I'm not finding much evidence of it elsewhere.)

If you follow the link at Wondra above, you'll see it's a special kind of flour that's mostly used for making gravies and sauces. One thing to say about British gravies: they are usually considerably less thickened than typical American gravies.

For more on flour and flour (the word), here's a nice international overview

Finally, this isn't a bread post, but I must note a flour-related bread difference. Order breakfast in the UK, and you will (probably) be asked: white or brown? in reference to your toast In the US, you'd be asked white or wheat? (Actually, in both countries you may be given more options. But I"m saving those for a bread post.)

If you ever want a reason to argue that British English is superior, do skip the reasons I've already debunked (maths, herb, etc.) and go with this one. Calling one bread-made-of-wheat wheat in contrast to another bread-made-of-wheat is a bit silly. And chances are: you'll say wheat, they'll hear white and breakfast will be ruined!

Postscript (30 Jan): I've added AmE corn flour (=BrE corn meal or maize meal) to the list. Americans use this to make corn bread and corn muffins (a kind of quick bread). Whenever I make these for my English family, I get to eat the whole batch because they do not appreciate its wonderfulness. The UK increasingly has polenta cakes of various types, offered as gluten-free options. Those are like the consistency of corn bread (a bit less crumbly) but more aggressively sweetened, in my experience, by being drenched in a fruit syrup.

Some notes from the harmless drudge:
As the deadline for my book approaches AND I go back to teaching after a glorious year of writing said book (thanks NEH!!!), you can probably expect that I'll be doing a bit less posting than in 2016. I'll set aside a bit of time per week, but less time than it usually takes me to write a post. So, either they'll be very short posts or a few weeks apart. (Though as I viciously cut [more BrE] bits out of the book, maybe they'll end up as quick posts here.)

I will be on (orig. AmE) radios a bit this spring (UK and NZ plans at the moment). I'll announce these via Twitter and Facebook, as usual, and I'm also noting forthcoming "appearances" on the Events and Media page of the blog. (The radio announcements will go up when broadcast dates are firmer.)
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bloviate and brunch

My posts are so long these days. Can I do a short one? I'll try writing about a single word and see what happens.

My friend Maverick (an Englishwoman) was talking to an American friend via Skype, and the following happened:
There was some banter as I had accused of him of pontificating (as opposed to going out and doing research!) He said no, he was 'bloviating'. I had not come across this word before and when I looked it up on google during our conversation I saw that it is used in USA. Is it ever used on this side of the pond?
It's not the most common word in America, either, but it is AmE. To quote the OED (draft 2004) definition, it means "To talk at length, esp. using inflated or empty rhetoric; to speechify or ‘sound off’." Searching for it on .uk sites, one commonly finds comments about it being American, or in 'expand your vocabulary' sites, or in (BrE) inverted commas/(AmE) quotation marks, indicating its newness or foreignness. Some examples:
The verb "to bloviate" is one I learnt in America, and it sums up what Clinton excels at: an effortlessly congenial form of self-promotion. (Times Online, 2004)

The Concise also says croeso (welcome) to some Welsh words with bore da (good morning) and iechyd da (good health) joining thousands of words from all around the English-speaking world: dicky (car boot) and batchmate (classmate) from India, spinny (mad, crazy) from Canada, and bloviate (talk at length in an inflated or empty way) from America. (about the Concise Oxford English Dictionary on
It's not all that new, however. The OED has found it as far back as 1845, in an Ohio newspaper. In linguistic terms, it seems to be a blend, also known as a portmanteau word--that is, a word that smashes (new technical term) together the form and meaning two words. The OED suspects that it came from blow + -viate as in deviate.

Another blend that I like is brunch--or maybe I'm confusing liking the meal for liking the word. Now, I had assumed that this was an AmE word, since the concept of brunch (particularly the institution of Sunday brunch--see, for example, the site of San Diego's Sunday Brunch Master) is fairly undeveloped in the UK (because everyone's saving their appetites for Sunday lunch). Whenever I suggest to Better Half that we should host a Sunday brunch, his reaction is something like Huh? But it's my favo(u)rite meal of the week, especially when (AmE) coffee cake is involved. That's another one that puzzles BH. He thinks (as do all the cafés (a)round here) that coffee cake means 'cake flavo(u)red with coffee', whereas in AmE it's a type of cake that goes well with a cup of coffee--particularly "in the U.S., a breakfast bread of yeast dough enriched with eggs, butter, and sugar, baked in a sheet topped with streusel [etc.]..and glazed with melted sugar" (OED). (See previous posts on baked goods and weird things people do with them, if you're interested.) So, I had a hard time believing that brunch could have originally been blended anywhere but America.

But how wrong I was! The OED lists it as 'orig. University slang' and its first published example of the word comes from Punch in 1896. Imagine that...

But before you imagine that, observe how pathetically I failed at writing about just the one word I meant to write about!
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fools and cream

I'd told myself I was going to take a break from writing about food, but that decision seems to be in conflict with my determination to write about linguisticky things that come up in my day-to-day doings...and it seems like all I do is eat.

Better Half is mad for (AmE=crazy about) gooseberries, a fruit I'd never experienced in the US, though I did know that the kiwi (fruit; BrE) used to be called the Chinese gooseberry. Anyhow, this is the label on the punnet (BrE*) that he bought this week.

I said to him, "Sweetie, you don't have to buy things just because it says on the label that they're perfect for you."

Better Half was not amused. It is a trial to live with me, I must admit.

Gooseberry fool is a traditional British treat, which involves gooseberries (duh), sugar and lots and lots of cream. BH made some when his nan (=grandma) visited Friday, but in an attempt to make it less calorific, replaced some of the cream with yog(h)urt. (Myself, I think that yog(h)urt has its place, but that any excuse to eat cream should not be taken lightly.) Fools can be made with other fruits as well, but gooseberry fool is the king of fools.

Now, I have to give two links for recipes, suitable to each continent's measures and ingredients. For the American version, click here, for a British version, click here. Some recipes include custard in the fool, but that's newfangled tomfoolery.

If it's just about berries, sugar and cream, why do you need different recipes? Well, because cream just isn't the same in the two places. In the US, there are three (basic) types of cream: light cream, heavy cream and whipping cream, which I always thought was a con, because it doesn't seem to be terribly different from heavy cream. In the UK, on the other hand, there are single cream, double cream, whipping cream and clotted cream. Clotted cream has been subjected to heat and is very butter-like, and perfect for spreading on scones with a bit of strawberry jam. As for the first two, one might believe that these are easily translated. Single cream = light cream and double cream = heavy cream. Right?

Wrong! I discovered when I first made my chocolate mousse recipe here. It called for heavy cream, so I bought some double cream. Some double cream is label(l)ed "suitable for spooning"--when you scoop a dollop onto your cake, it'll keep its shape. I made my mousse with non-spooning double cream, but it was still much heavier (48% butterfat) than a heavy cream (36-40%). The mousse was perfectly edible, but it was more like eating a truffle than a mousse. No one could finish their portion, except for BH's sister's better half, The Gardener. The man has the sweetest tooth (full of cavities) and the kind of metabolism that I mention in my prayers. Not only did he finish his own, he finished everyone else's plus the "safety serving" I'd held back in the fridge.

Single cream and light cream have around 18% butterfat. Whipping cream has 30-40%. So, if you have a US recipe that calls for heavy cream, use whipping cream if you're in the UK. North America also has half-and-half, which has 10-12% fat. I've seen it claimed that single cream and half-and-half are the same thing, but really you have to add a little milk to single cream to make it like half-and-half.

Cream is a more serious business in the UK because it is so central a part of pudding (AmE = dessert). Cream is poured over most puddings/desserts, including a cake, true puddings ("sweet dessert, usually containing flour or a cereal product, that has been boiled, steamed, or baked." --American Heritage Dictionary), apple crumble (AmE = apple crisp), or even fresh fruit salad (which, even though I am a great fan of cream, I find a little disgusting). For some desserts/puddings, one is offered warm, pourable custard as an alternative to cream. The only puddings/desserts that I can think of that one doesn't always get cream, custard or ice cream with are those that are already made of cream, custard or ice cream, like fools or trifle--a concoction of sponge cake, (BrE) jelly (AmE=gelatin, usually called by the brand name Jell-o), custard, sherry, cream, and jam. In the US, one might get whipped cream or ice cream with cake, pie or crumble/crisp, but not poured cream.

Another oddity in the gooseberry label: it says "ENGLISH MID SUMMER GOOSEBERRIES", but the county of origin (almost legible in the photo) is Perthshire--in Scotland. I fear for Waitrose (supermarket) if the Scottish nationalists pick up on this slight. (I could say something about the space in mid summer, but hyphenation will have to wait for another post.)

* A note on punnet. Historically, this word refers to a shallow basket for collecting fruit, but these days it's the (often plastic) container that soft fruits are sold in. In AmE, we tend to say a pint of strawberries, referring to the amount, rather than the container, whereas hereabouts one buys a punnet of strawberries. When I refer to the container itself, I'd probably say a pint box. If it were a bushel of strawberries, I'd probably call the container a crate, especially if it were wooden.
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milk and tea

In my American family's home, unless it's a holiday or a barbecue, milk is the drink that you have with meals. (Probably fewer families drink milk with meals today than when I was a child, though.) There is something so refreshing about a glass of milk--yet many of my English acquaintances turn their noses up at the notion. I've never seen an adult (other than myself) in the UK drinking milk with a meal (and as mentioned before, the English are more likely than Americans to have no drink with a meal), and in the antenatal/prenatal ward I had to withstand the most quizzical looks when I requested a glass of milk instead of a cup of tea. (And here was I thinking that pregnant women were supposed to pack in the calcium!)
Alpha Stock Images

But the English do go through a lot of milk--in their tea. Now it's my turn to turn my nose up. English tea, or at least the everyday blends that we refer to in our house as (BrE) bog standard tea, is blended to be strong enough to withstand milk and sugar. Because they're used to very strong tea, the British claim that American tea (typically an orange pekoe) is "like dishwater". Americans are more likely to drink their orange pekoe with lemon than with milk, and it makes nice iced tea. (Don't try to make iced tea with British brands like PG Tips or Typhoo--it turns out incredibly bitter. And don't try to serve nice iced tea to the English--they probably won't appreciate it, though some are starting to drink overly sugared and overpriced flavo(u)red iced teas that come ready-to-drink.) Some British folk insist that Americans would drink more tea if we had "proper" tea like theirs. Faced with the prospect of British tea, however, I've become, for the first time in my life, a coffee drinker. My thinking is that if milk and tea were suited to each other, then tea ice cream would be at least as popular as coffee ice cream. But it isn't, is it? (Mental note: prepare for onslaught of comments and small incendiary devices.)

But I started this post to write about types of milk, having done types of cream some time ago. (It remains one of the most Googled posts here, although the top ones are probably red shoes, no knickers and smacking and spanking, which are Googled late at night by people with something other than dialectal variation on their minds.) Milk with the fat removed is called skimmed milk in BrE, while in AmE it tends to be called skim milk. On the other end of the scale (3-4% fat) is what Americans call whole milk and the British call full fat milk, which is a nice dieting ploy, since I'm too embarrassed to buy it. In between, Americans have options, known as 1% milk and 2% milk, while the British have semi-skimmed milk, which is 1.5-1.8% fat, according to Delia (old-school British TV chef).

When referring to the units of milk you can buy, Americans speak of buying a half-pint, pint, quart, half-gallon (i.e. 2 quarts) or gallon of milk. (Pints aren't that common, though, as we are probably buying it to drink, rather than to splash on our tea. Half-pints are what you get with your [AmE] school lunch/[BrE] school dinner.) In BrE, one always speaks of units of milk in pints (metric system be damned!). So, you can buy a pint of milk, or two-pint, four-pint or six-pint containers. British (Imperial) and American (US) liquid measures are not the same, and a British pint is slightly bigger than an American pint ('Hear, hear!' say the blokes down the pub). But there are such things as Imperial quarts (2 pints) and gallons (8 pints), so I'm not sure why only the term pint is used in measuring milk. By law, the pint-label(l)ed containers now tell you how many (milli)lit{re/er}s they hold, but no one pays any attention.

---Note to homesick Americans within easy reach of south-eastern England. Tallula's tea rooms in Brighton, behind Waitrose, serve a nice iced orange pekoe and very nice American pancakes--although they haven't learned to serve the latter with butter and they put way too much citrus fruit in the glass with the former. When I complained once that all I could taste was orange, and not tea, the waiter said, puzzled, 'But it's orange tea'. No, it's orange pekoe--it's thought to be named after the royals in Holland, not its flavo[u]r or colo[u]r. That said, they take requests for butter and 'not much fruit' without much eyebrow-raising.--

Postscript (15 April): I meant to mention (BrE) builder's tea: very strong, with lots of milk and sugar. So, here we have the way you take your tea linked to your social class...

Post-postscript (March 2010): Tallula's has gone out of business.  I am SO SAD!
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In the comments on the last baby-orient(at)ed post, an anonymous person said:
Posset. No mention of posset!
Well, that was because I hadn't yet come across the term. But now that baby Grover is posseting, I'm hearing it all the time. First, as a verb (transitive or intransitive) by Lazybrain and the (BrE) health visitor, and today as a noun by Better Half, who came home from shopping and observed:
That's a nice bit of posset on your top!
So, have the AmE speakers out there figured out what (BrE) posset means? It means 'to regurgitate small amounts of milk', i.e. (mostly AmE) spit up (which can be used as a noun or verb--depending on where you put the stress). The original meaning of posset was:
A drink made from hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or other liquor, flavoured with sugar, herbs, spices, etc., and often drunk for medicinal purposes (OED-draft revision March 2007).
The connection with baby regurgitation is, of course, the curdled milk. Grover's been through four outfits and three sets of sheets today because of the possetting. Meanwhile, I'm just accruing layers of posset on the outfit I put on this morning. We can see who has the status in this household...
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I've avoided doing a post on how BrE pudding is used to mean (AmE) dessert because it's one of those AmE/BrE differences that is known by most people with any interest in the two countries. (And way back in the beginning, I said that this blog wasn't about those things that are well-covered in lists of AmE/BrE differences. This has led me to drag my feet, or perhaps my knuckles, in responding to requests for this topic from American readers Cathy and Jacqueline.) The pudding/dessert equation has been mentioned in passing here and there on the blog. But there are angles on this issue that deserve further discussion. So what the hell, here are some observations on them.

This comes up naturally, since I'm in the US at the moment, and the first 'new' AmE/BrE difference we taught my linguistically insightful five-year-old niece on this visit was "dessert is called pudding in England". Her immediate question was the same as reader Cathy's:
If any dessert can be called pudding, what is [AmE] pudding called [in BrE]?
But before I get to that, let's start with a fine-tuning of the general American understanding of the meaning of pudding in BrE. Yes, it can be used to refer to the sweet course of a meal, served after the main course. But in addition to referring to a course, it can also refer to a particular kind of dish, as it does in AmE. But there's still a translational problem, in that it doesn't refer to the same type of dish in the two dialects. In BrE, the dish-sense of pudding is:
A baked or steamed sponge or suet dish, usually sweet and served as a dessert, but also savoury suet puddings (e.g. steak and kidney). Also milk puddings, made by baking rice, semolina, or sago in milk. (Bender & Bender, A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, Oxford UP, 1995)
Here's a photo of a Christmas pudding, from Cumbria Rural Enterprise Agency. It's kind of like a fruit cake, but it's cooked by steaming. I know Anglophiles who buy and eat Christmas puddings in the US, but other such puddings are very rare in the US. My personal favo(u)rite is Sticky Toffee Pudding, and I consider it my duty to sample as wide a variety of STPs as possible in order to try to identify the best. Nominations on a postcard, please! (AmE speakers should usually mentally translate toffee in BrE contexts to caramel.)

In AmE, pudding nowadays refers particularly to creamy, custard-like desserts. Wikipedia treats this better than other dictionaries I've consulted (BrE translations in brackets are mine):
The second and newer type of pudding consists of sugar, milk and a thickening agent such as cornstarch [=BrE corn flour], gelatin, eggs, rice or tapioca to create a sweet, creamy dessert. These puddings are made either by simmering on top of the stove [=BrE on the hob; AmE stove = BrE cooker] in a saucepan or double boiler or by baking in an oven, often in a bain-marie. They are typically served chilled, but a few types, such as zabaglione and rice pudding, may be served warm.
As the Wikipedia bit indicates, the steamed, cake-ish kind of pudding is older than the 'milk pudding' sense, but it's not the oldest. Originally pudding referred to more sausage-like things. Hence black pudding, a blood sausage that is far more common in Britain (especially in the north of England--at breakfast time, for godsakes) than in the US.

On the grammatical angle, note that the BrE dish-sense of pudding is often a count noun (e.g. I made enough sticky toffee puddings to feed an army) because the puddings are items with well-defined boundaries, whereas in AmE it's usually a mass noun (e.g. I made enough pudding [not puddings] for everyone) since it refers to a substance. (Throughout English, we have the ability to make count nouns out of mass nouns and vice versa, so in this case I'm talking about the natural state of these words when referring to the food as it is prepared, rather than the senses "a portion of X" or "a smear of X", etc.)

So, what do BrE speakers call the creamy stuff that Americans call pudding? I think the best answer is that they don't call it anything in particular. There is no such thing as Jell-o pudding (the form in which most Americans encounter this substance) in the UK. The closest thing to that, although it's more 'mousse-like' is probably Angel Delight. A baked custard is a kind of pudding-y thing that is found in both countries (though not very popular in either place now, I think, except in the more exotic Spanish/Mexican incarnation, flan--which Kevin in the comments reminds us is usually called crème caramel in BrE. See the comments for more on what flan means). But in the UK custard usually refers to pouring custard, which Americans might occasionally come across under its French name crème anglaise. (This was discussed before, back here.) Both countries have rice pudding and the less creamy bread pudding.

(Incidentally, Better Half and I were grocery-shopping here the other day, and we happened down the Jell-o [US trade name, used generically to mean 'flavo(u)red gelatin', i.e. BrE jelly] aisle. BH was flabbergasted by the range of little boxes to be found there, which included two brands (Jell-o and Royal) and both gelatin/jelly and (AmE) pudding mixes. The Kraft Foods website lists 20 flavo(u)rs of regular Jell-o, 12 of sugar-free Jell-o, 17 of instant regular Jell-o pudding, 9 of instant diet Jell-o pudding, and 9 of the regular and diet cook-and-serve pudding mixes. So that's 67 products before we even start counting the ones that Royal makes. I've lived abroad long enough that instead of celebrating such a range of products, I am exhausted by the thought of it and look forward to getting back to a more sensible shopping experience. But only after I've loaded up my suitcase with A1 sauce, low-calorie microwave popcorn and New York State maple syrup.)

Returning to the course-sense of pudding, the term dessert is heard in BrE. The first sense below from the OED has been around in BrE since the 17th century at least, while the second, more general sense is noted as more American, but increasingly found in BrE:

1. a. A course of fruit, sweetmeats, etc. served after a dinner or supper; ‘the last course at an entertainment’ (J.).
b. ‘In the United States often used to include pies, puddings, and other sweet dishes’ (Cent. Dict.). Now also in British usage.
Other BrE terms for this course are the more colloquial afters and sweet, which is often found in lists of 'non-U' terms. Pudding is the least socially marked of these terms.

I believe that the pudding/dessert course is the one that diverges most, food-wise, in the two countries. That is to say, there are lots and lots of British puddings that aren't found in the US and American desserts that aren't found in the UK. And, of course, some of these are sources of amusement--particularly the name of the British dish spotted dick.

Finally (and not entirely unrelatedly), pudding is sometimes clipped to pud (rhymes with wood), which disturbs me when I see it in writing since I first learned pud as a slang term for a woman's genitals that rhymes with bud and is derived from pudendum. But BrE also has a genital-slang pud, which means 'penis'. This one rhymes with wood, since it is derived from pudding. (The OED notes that this is chiefly used in the masturbatory phrase pull the/one's pud.)
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the big list of vegetables

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I feel shame when I do a post that's mostly just listing "they say this, we say that". There are plenty of sites around that do that kind of straight word-for-word listing. But I get enough requests for vegetable names that I'm just going to try to get it over with right now. Where there are links, that's because I've already written about some of these at greater length elsewhere. I've also already written about veg/veggie and various herbs (and the pronunciation thereof). So please click on those links to discuss those issues in greater detail.

And now, the list (which has no particular order):

rocket (sometimes roquette)arugula
mange toutsnow peas/sugar peas
spring oniongreen onion/scallion
beetroot (treated as a mass noun)beet (count noun)
chicoryBelgian endive
pepper (sweet pepper if it's not green; one occasionally hears the AusE capsicum)(bell) pepper

chick-peachickpea/garbanzo bean
haricot beannavy bean
broad beanfava bean
runner beanstring bean
cos lettuceromaine lettuce

In addition, some names for groups of vegetables are different. BrE pulses = AmE legumes (though, technically, legume is a broader category). In AmE I'd refer to cruciferous vegetables, meaning broccoli and cauliflower collectively, but in BrE I hear Brassica, the Latin name of the family (which includes cabbage and Brussels sprouts).

Squash are another matter. One easily finds acorn and butternut squash (and courgettes/zucchini) in both countries, but otherwise the varieties of squash tend to be different. Marrows will be known to fans of Wallace and Grommit, but the term is not much used in the US. It refers to "any of various kinds of squash or gourd which are chiefly the fruits of varieties of Cucurbita pepo, eaten as a vegetable; esp. one of the larger round or cylindrical kinds with green, white, or striped skins and greenish-white or (occas.) yellowish pulpy flesh" (OED June 2008 draft rev.), so courgettes/zucchinis are technically small marrows. In the UK I've never seen what we call summer squash* (aka yellow squash--is this a regional difference? Not sure) or spaghetti squash (which was something of a fad in the US in the 1970s, I think, but I haven't seen it lately). The OED lists pattypan (squash) as 'chiefly N. Amer.', but I've only seen it for sale in the UK and South Africa. Pumpkin is generally only used of the orange-rinded variety (for making jack o'lanterns) in AmE, but in BrE the term applies more generally to gourd-y squashes with orange flesh. (Jack-o-lantern pumpkins have become more available in the UK as Halloween celebrations have become more popular.)

The British talk about more kinds of shelled peas (garden peas, petits-pois [for younger, sweeter peas]) than Americans do. (Click on the link for the mushy variety.)

As can be seen in the examples presented here, BrE tends to be more influenced by French and AmE shows some Italian influence, which is not surprising since Britain has a lot of contact with France and its cuisine, and popular cuisine in the US has been greatly affected by Italian (and other) immigrants. Those who read Menu Italian may not recogni{s/z}e arugula for Italian rucola, but arugula was the dialectal version of the word that immigrated to America. (Just as rutabaga is not the general Swedish word for that kind of turnip, but a dialectal term for it. Click on the link above for more on that.)

I await the first comment that points out a completely obvious one that I've left off the list!

*Summer squash for me has two meanings. Either the general term that refers to any thin-skinned squash, or the specific one that refers to yellow squash that are picked at the same time as courgettes/zucchini.
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The book!

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