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<   No. 1767   2007-11-28   >

Comic #1767

1 Long Tom: What be ye lickin' yer chops for, Dirque?
2 Dirque: Beggin' yer pardon, cap'n, but mashed tatties 'n' bearnaise sauce be soundin' a fair sight better'n biscuits 'n' salt pork.
3 Long Tom: Arrr! They be eatin' us, not feedin' us, ye dolt!
4 Dirque: Mmmm... but what a way to be goin'...

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Like all good supporting character antagonists, the natives are obliging enough to wait while the main characters have an extended conversation in front of them.

And for a good discussion, you could do worse than the topic of biscuits. "Biscuit" is a word well known to those who have experience with the vagaries of British and American English usage, being one of the most notorious causes of misunderstanding between members of those cultures. I won't go into the details here - read the Wikipedia article for the full lowdown if you're not already aware of it.

The other interesting thing about "biscuit" is the etymology, from the Latin, and meaning "twice baked". Most biscuits (of either cultural variation) are not twice baked these days, but the meaning lingers in the traditional Italian biscotti (an even more direct descendant of the Latin term). Biscotti are indeed baked twice in order to achieve their distinctive traditional texture and crispness. (For those interested in this sort of thing, the "bis" part means "twice", being from the same root as words such as "bicycle" and "bifocals", while the "cotti" part (or "cotta" in the non-plural form) is the bit that means baked, and can also be found in words such as "pannacotta" (baked cream) and "terracotta" (baked earth). Languages really are cool when you discover these sorts of connections between them.)

And that's not all. German has zwieback, another variation on the theme, whose derivation is from the German "zweimal gebackenes" - meaning, wait for it: "twice baked".

2018-07-15 Rerun commentary: Another interesting difference between British and American English involving food, of which I was completely unaware until about three weeks ago, is the meaning of soup.

I was browsing one of my favourite book shops and one of the new releases was a thick paperback on the differences between British and American English (I forget the title). Being interested in this topic, I picked it up and flipped through the pages, opening it randomly on a page which happened to be about soup.

To boil it down[1], essentially:

As with any of these things, there is some regional variation, and there's always someone who'll say "I'm British and my soup has chunks in it!" but in general there is this noticeable difference. When the British make a soup, they boil up some stuff, and then if it isn't all liquified already, they puree it, to make it so. When Americans make a soup, they boil up some stuff, and often leave chunks of vegetables and/or meat and/or other stuff in it. In America, a stock with chunks in it is much more likely to be called a soup, whereas in Britain the exact same thing is much more likely to be called a stew.

For more on this specific topic, read the Separated by a Common Language blog. And from the Australian perspective, I must say that on this one we tend to side with the Americans.

[1] Yes.

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