Ways with words

Over on the Macmillan Dictionary Blog today, my colleague Laine is dicussing “tea”.

My colleagues from Cumbria and Cheshire go off in the evening to ‘eat their tea’(!?). Maybe this doesn’t sound weird to you but for me – I should point out that I am South African – it is hilarious. Apparently my going to ‘have my dinner’ is posh. Pah!

While on the subject of tea, is it totally South African to let your tea draw? Brits seem to brew their tea and the Canadian downstairs steeps his. And when I say that I will make tea just now I mean, later/ in a little bit. But for those around me, just now means NOW and where is it?

We brew the tea in our family, though I have close friends who mash theirs, and if it’s brewed too long it becomes stewed. On a Saturday we might take tea, usually between 4 and 5pm, with a biscuit, toasted teacake, maybe a crumpet… and lashings of melty Lurpack! On an evening we eat dinner after 7, except, perhaps, Christmas when, having eaten more than we can manage at around 3pm, we skip straight to supper sometime between 9 and 10. Supper might be cold meat sandwiches, cheese with pickles, crisps, and mince pies, or might just be the serving of Christmas pudding we couldn’t eat after our lunch…

It had never occured to me before now the extent to which what I’m eating links to what time of day it is!

The reason for this discussion is tied in with the launch of the What’s your English? fanpage on facebook. If words are your thing, if you find amusing anecdotes about thongs and fanny packs worth sharing – and especially if you have one of your own to share – hop on over and become a fan!

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5 thoughts on “Ways with words

  1. My evening meal is my ‘tea’, ‘dinner’ is eaten in the middle of the day. ‘supper’ is an indulgence we have just before bed! But that’s just me! As a northerner, I also use the word ‘pants’ to describe my trousers, which southern university friends found a little confusing. Claire, for the longest time, thought I had a medical condition because I would always have to, “change my pants,” before going on a night out! I love language!

  2. for my family the word depends on the size & content of the meal. My Mom refers to having had her dinner at about 8 in the morning because it’s rice and beans, barbecued tofu and steamed veg. But then when she eats something simple in the evening, I’ve no idea what it’s supposed to be.
    After 8 or 9, if it’s not dinner-type food it’s definitely supper.

  3. When you were little, Cie, we had lunch (mid-day), tea at 4pm (cake/biscuit and drink) and supper (7pm) and Dinner on Sunday.
    In this case supper was an informal meal of one course, followed perhaps by fruit or cheese. Dinner was a formal meal on Sunday lunchtime or any evening and consists of 2 or 3 courses.
    This was the old fashioned, middle class way.
    In the past, people’s social class was judged by the their eating habits but now people eat what they like, when they like and call it what they please!

  4. Drawing tea is such a South Africanism (my Mum always told me that was why we called it a drawing room) but I can identify so much with her use of ‘just now’ as I often say that, as I use ‘boykie’, which is the South African for ‘boyo’ and often reply to questions with a ‘ya’ or ‘yebbo’.

    Like your Mum, we always had breakfast, lunch and supper, sometimes with either afternoon tea or elevenses if the day demanded it. We usually had Sunday Lunch but Sundays were the one occasion we used the term ‘dinner’.

    … and best not to get me started on peoples’ use of ‘posh’.

  5. LOL! Well, I am a southern girl from the USA, so if you ask me about tea, it will be iced, in a glass, with lots of sugar! 😉 In our family, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I sometimes use supper interchangeably with dinner, but my husband says that is very “redneck” of me.

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