British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)

BRE - AMESalad

Image credit: keepps, “Salad 1” October 19, 2005, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Dear All,
The previous post concentrated on the topic of clothes and pointed out some key differences between BrE and AmE vocabularies. The present post focuses on the topic of food. Food is something we deal with every day and if you are going to travel, you may find it quite confusing if instead of the dish you have ordered the waiter brings you something else. Have you ordered it by mistake or was the mistake of the waiter who had brought the dish to a wrong table? In fact, it can be neither of these things. It may be the differences in your language (language varieties, to be more precise). So when you order, for instance, jelly, what will you get? Paradoxically, but the answer is: it depends. If you are in a British restaurant, you are going to get a sweet gelatin product; if you are in a North American restaurant you are almost sure to be served with a dessert which is cooked by boiling fruit juice and sugar.

It is also quite puzzling to find that people do not understand what you mean when you want to order your favourite dish at a cafe. No, it is not that you are ordering some exotic food (since many people eat it every day). The thing is they use a different language and what you call an X dish they call it a Y dish. Of course, frustration at a restaurant or a cafe is a little thing, but you never know what a situation you may find yourself in if you cannot communicate effectively. This post may help us to feel more comfortable when we speak about food in a British or American context. It is also useful for linguists to compare the vocabulary below with a different English variety, to see what is in common.

The list below does not exhaust all the food terms which are different between BrE and AmE, but it rather provides some key points:

aubergine – eggplant* (BP, 2014; OD, 2014; CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; ABBY Lingvo, 2014)**
beetroot – beet
bill (at restaurant) – check
bap – hamburger bun
biscuit – cookie
black treacle – molasses
book a table – reserve a table
broad bean – lima bean
candyfloss – cotton candy
chips – [French] fries
cling film – plastic wrap
cooker – range, stove
courgette – zucchini
crisps – [potato] chips
cutlery – silverware
desiccated coconut – shredded coconut
eggy bread (fried) – French toast
fairy cake – cup cake
flan – fruit pie
food, grub, nosh – food
gammon – ham
gherkin – pickle
grill – broil
icing sugar – confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar
it’s off – it’s spoiled
jacket potato, baked potato – baked potato
jam – jelly
jelly – jello/jell-O
jug – pitcher
kipper – smoked herring
maize – corn
marrow – squash
mid-morning meal – brunch
mince (meat) – ground meat
muesli – granola
nice – tasty
pickle – relish
pilchards – sardines
porridge – oatmeal
puddings, afters, dessert, sweets – dessert
rasher – a slice of bacon
runner beans – green beans, string beans
rubbish – garbage, trash
sandwich, butty, sarnie – sandwich
sausage, banger – sausage
scone – biscuit
semolina – cream of wheat, manna
serviette – napkin
semi-skimmed milk – 2% milk, low fat milk
smoked salmon – lox
sorbet – sherbet
spring onions – green onions
squash – juice concentrate
starter – appetizer
sweets – candy
take-away – take out, carry-out
tin – can
toasted cheese (sandwich) – grilled cheese

In summary, this post has discussed some of the lexical differences between BrE and AmE in terms of the topic of food. The following post is going to focus on miscellaneous topics within BrE and AmE vocabularies.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Pronunciation
  2. British English – American English: Spelling
  3. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
Project Britain (BP) (2014). Retrieved February 21, 2014, from http://projectbritain.com/americanbritish.html

*Bold type is used for AmE words.
**These sources have been consulted here and further in this post.

Iaroslav

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    1. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    2. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    3. British English – American English: Miscellanea (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    4. British English – American English: Pronunciation | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    5. British English – American English: Spelling | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    6. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    7. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    8. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    9. British English – American English: Miscellanea (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    10. British English – American English: verbs (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    12. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    13. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    14. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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