Tag Archives: linguistics

Speech patterns and adoptive phrases

Steve Irwin

My parents have been visiting and were amused to hear me use the word ‘crikey’ the other day. My mum’s a professor of socio-linguistics so finds all this stuff fascinating.

Now I happen to remember exactly why this particular word is in my vocabulary – I used to try to do an impression of the inestimable Steve Irwin (it was terrible) for no reason other than I thought he was occasionally hilarious – and say "crikey, don’t troy this at home, kids. if he boites me Oi’m dead."

Given that the majority of that phrase doesn’t have much cause to enter every day conversation, ‘crikey’ is all that remains. By the same token my brother, over the years, has taken to saying tomay-toes instead of tomatoes – he picked a way of saying something, liked it, and it stuck.

Is this how linguistic drift happens? Or this, and the OED adding acronyms to itself?

British names for American ingredients (and American names for British ingredients) – a 101 guide (basic tutorial)

(Warning: the following video contains some classic Izzard swearing and might therefore be NSFW. It however perfectly sets the scene for this post, so watch it anyway).

I read a lot of American food blogs – as you may have gathered from my Kenji tribute. But one of the things that grates slightly is the fact that we have slightly different vocabularies for a number of common (and some not-so-common) cooking ingredients. I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook to help me come up with some key points of contention and here’s what everyone came up with…

  • American – British
  • Cilantro – coriander
  • Rutabaga – swede – wtf???
  • ‘erbs – herbs
  • frosting – icing
  • Zucchini – courgette
  • Maize – corn
  • Eggplant – aubergine
  • Soda – soft drinks
  • Tomayto – tomato
  • Chips – crisps
  • Fries – chips
  • Jelly – jam
  • Jello – jelly
  • Baysil – basil
  • Arugala – rocket (seriously wtf?)
  • Scallions – spring onions
  • Baking soda – baking powder


  • Noodles – Pasta (I thought they just called it paaaasta)
  • Entree – main course (Isn’t this a French thing?)
  • Corned beef – salt beef (I thought American corned beef was tinned, processed beef hash)

Can anyone clarify?

and also…

  • Budweiser – beer (not sure these are synonymous)
  • Potato – potato
  • American cheese – wtf? (via @qwghlm, I actually think there’s a time and a place for American cheese)

Thanks to friends on Facebook – Farrah, Mary, Kate, Caroline, Lucy, James, Graham and on Twitter – qwghlm, AndreLabadie, jogblog and gateauchateau for the suggestions.

Any more for any more? I think we have the Spanish influence to thank for some of these (cilantro I think is Spanish for coriander, for example) but absolutely no idea where some of the others come from and my curiousity doesn’t extend far enough to investigate.

It’s amazing how much difference a few short centuries can make to linguistic divergence. In another few months, we probably won’t understand anything the Americans say!

In a side note, that’s the single most successful crowdsourcing request I’ve ever made. I guess you have to ask the right questions for your network!