You Say Tomato and I Say Tomato... (Doesn't Work as a Written Line Really, Does It?)

Tuesday 18/1/2005

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Diary and Notes

Nomenclature, one of my favourite words. Today's mini rant will be mostly about how and why things are named.

I went out to dinner last night to a pub called the Imperial (work thingy). It's one of those giant Wetherspoons places serving cheap beer and cheap curry on a Thursday night. To begin with I was concerned as to whether there would be anything suitably American style on the menu, I should not have worried. American culture has so pervaded this part of Britain (what with all the old grannies out line dancing at a weekend, people driving around in 4x4's and the regular lynching parties) I had no problem finding something to choose, in fact I was almost spoilt for choice. What should I pick? Would it be the steak with Jack Daniels sauce, the hamburger or...

There before my eyes, was the meal that should be the fifty first star on the red,white and blue. Something almost invented for my week of Americana - the Western platter (their name not mine). It actually consisted of some Buffalo wings, ribs and chips (or fries as the American's might say), with a little salad on the side of course - perfect. I had some onion rings as well and sat and slurped and ate with my fingers and never used a knife once during the entire meal. Afterwards I had some Belgium waffles. There was however one concession I just couldn't do - American beer. I am willing to eat your food, but no way am I drinking your piss weak flavourless beer. Call me a snob, but their should be a law in Europe that prevents anyone calling this stuff beer in the first place. Something like beerolight, alewater or gnatpiss would be more approrpiate. I had a couple of pints of Marston's Pedigree instead and said 'sod you' to the people of Milwakee (Which claims to be Beer Capital of the World, have these people never heard of Prague, Munich or even Burton-on-Trent.)

Anyway, nomenclature. For example: Buffalo wings don't come from a wierd mythical flying bovine but from Buffalo, New York and their conception fills our American cousins with pride in their culinary history (see for instance).

But what of French fires and Belgium waffles. I've been to Belgium a few times and have never had a waffle, they are more likely an American invention. I have had them in France however (goufres). Also note that French fries weren't invented in France but in Belgium. Perhaps it should be French waffles and Belgium fries. In addition, I live in England and I've never had an English muffin (which are actually crumpets, I've had crumpets many times).

It must fill Americans with great joy in renaming things. Take for instance the hot-dog or Frankfurter as it used to be know. It was renamed during the first world war as Germanic sounding names had become most unpopular. They also tried renaming saurkraut, freedom cabbage, but I don't think it caught on. During the recent Iraq coflict, there was a movement (probably a joke really) to have French fries renamed, freedom fries (as the French weren't so happy about the Iraq invasion). They call coriander, celantro (which is odd as the word coriander is very old English and the original settlers would have both known the plant and had the word coriander in their lexicon), courgettes are zucchini (their are more Italian people in America than French no doubt) and instead of calling the fruit of the eggplant an aubergine, just call it an eggplant. This could go on.

I'm not the first person to point out these differences and it's probably quite dull of me to do so. Unlike some British people, it in no way infurtiates me or makes me think any less of somebody because they use different names for things than I do. In fact, I like to see our language evolve and change. What does bother me about American names for things however, is that they call their water-o-piss, beer. It isn't beer and anyone saying so should be deported from our hallowed lands.

Adios now folks and I'll write some more tomorrow.

Cake Blog

Belgium waffles: Served with ice cream, a chopped banana and maple syrup.


  • Buffalo Wings
  • Barbecue Ribs
  • French Fries
  • Onion Rings

    A Reply From Dr. Phil Welshegg of Atlanta Georgia:

    Not sure about the Cilantro rant from today old bean - aren't the leaves Cilantro and the seeds coriander for some obscure reason that's lost in the mists of time. Oh and the hot dog thing - just so happens I was watching a program on the origins of this and nobody can attest to the true provenance of the word/phrase. Common belief is that a cartoonist saw sausages in buns being sold at a turn of the century baseball game, drew a Dachshund in a bun decided he couldn't spell Hot Dachshund and wrote hot dog instead. So there you have it.

    And to reply: In America the leaves are cilantro, in Britain they are still coriander, we have no word cilantro, that's Mexican.