Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cultural Misunderstandings

What do you call your evening meal? Probably dinner. But us English seem to have a problem with that. It's too easy, I suppose. Depending on where you come from in England, and your 'social class', the various meals of the day can have different names. I will attempt to explain.

Breakfast is always breakfast.

The midday meal is 'lunch' if you live in the South. 'Luncheon' if you are posh, wherever you live. If you live in the North, it's 'dinner'.

The main meal of the day is 'dinner' if you live in the South, 'supper' if you are posh. 'Tea', if you live in the North. Northerners may also have a snack before going to bed, and this is called 'supper' I don't know if Southerners or posh people have an equivalent.

Aspirational middle-class folk will always use the Southern terminology, no matter where they live. Oh, there's also 'afternoon tea' but I'm not sure how that fits into anything. And 'elevenses', but I don't call a cup of tea and a biscuit a meal.

What's brought this on? I can hear you asking. Well, BetterArf is now back at work and yesterday invited one of her colleagues round for tea. 'Hell no, I'm not coming for tea! I'm an American, I drink coffee!"

I kid you not.


Blogger secretdubai said...

Actually southern working class use "tea" as well - especially when they tend to have their meal earlier (which probably originally derives from blue collar working hours or some such).

My parents always served supper, never earlier than 7pm - which always screwed up our TV watching!! - but my father only got back from the office at about 6.30pm anyway. We got back from our private schools at a similar time.

Whereas friends of mine would eat their evening meal at 5pm/5.30pm, and call it tea. Because they went to state schools, they were home much earlier in the afternoon as well, say around 3pm.

So they got to watch far more TV than I did :(

10:46 pm  
Blogger Duffy said...

The one that screwed me up when I was hanging out w/ the Brits was the word "cheers". One guy and I went out for a beer and I bought the first round. He said "cheers" and I didn't realize he really meant "thank you." Limey bastard.

11:50 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

SD. Is that a 'private' private school, or a 'public' private school. The world needs to know!

3:58 pm  
Blogger Brn said...

There is some of this in the US too. My very country grandma used to confuse me by calling the midday meal dinner. And my Austrailian friend always called the evening meal tea.

9:59 pm  
Blogger Nash said...

Thanks for that, this is one of those things I always wanted to know, but was too afraid to ask!

10:47 pm  
Blogger Duffy said...

Public/Private schools! Don't get me started!

"Freeways" often have tolls
"Driveways" are for parking
"Parkways" are for driving

"Come inside" drives my midwestern relatives to hysterics. We say that to invite people to another room in the house and they always say, "but we're already inside"

"The City" for people from the NY metro area means New York City. Always. And specifically, Manhattan. When I say "I'll be in The City on Thursday", around here people sometimes ask, "which one?"

11:19 pm  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

Brn -

I had the same confusion as a kid, and still do. My recollection growing up in the South (U.S.) is that you could always count on supper meaning the evening meal. Dinner usually meant the same as supper except on Sunday after church when it would almost surely mean the midday meal - so as to avoid the connotation, I suppose, of lunch which is always midday but tends to be something lighter and simpler like sandwiches.

webmaster - I'm fond of noting the differences between the British and American languages. Keep them coming.

7:50 am  

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