This happened on Twitter the other day. Just for your reference, the initial tweet was by Mignon “Grammar Girl” Fogarty, a popular blogger on matters of language and usage and a resident of Nevada.
I’ve blacked out the name of the person who asked “crisps or chips?” but the Internet says she’s an American and recent graduate of Columbia University. And I see to my surprise that I’ve never done a post on “crisps,” which is what the British call what Americans call potato chips, or simply “chips.”
I actually have noticed some American use of “crisps” in recent years — not so much for potato chips, which I think is pretty well entrenched as a term, as for other crunchy, marginally more healthy snack items, like this:
And what sort of “chips” did Mignon Fogarty have for lunch? One of my favorites.
In my Brooklyn wanderings the other week, I came upon this sign outside a bar:
I had encountered “schooner” as a portion size for beer in my recent Australia visit, but didn’t have a clear sense of what it meant, other than larger than the smallest size (called “pot,” as I recalled). And by the way, if you’re not from here, “Bud” is Budweiser, probably the most famous American beer.
I checked the OED, which told an interesting, somewhat complicated story. It gives a United State origin for “schooner” as a beer vessel, citing a definition in an 1879 edition of Webster’s dictionary: “A tall glass, used for lager-beer and ale, and containing about double the quantity of an ordinary tumbler.” An 1896 quote from a Scottish newspaper shows the term had crossed the Atlantic, and specifies its size: “‘the schooner’ [contains] 14 fluid ounces, or 2 4-5ths imperial gills … [and is] found in everyday use, under various names, in London, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and elsewhere.”
But then, the term seems to have subsided both in Britain and the U.S., only to reappear, by the 1930s, in Australia and New Zealand. A fascinating 2011 article in Australia Beer News traced the tangled history of “schooner” in New South Wales. The author, Dr. Brett J. Stubbs, limits himself to that state because “tracing the history of the schooner glass (let alone of beer glasses in general) in Australia requires more than just a short article.” To summarize his tale would require more than just a short blog post, but fortunately, this graphic is floating around the internet (apologies for not being able to figure out and cite the original source). It brings to mind the apocryphal factoid about Eskimos having 100 or some other large number words for snow.
Meanwhile, by the 1960s the meaning of “schooner” in Britain had changed to, as the OED puts it, “A tall, waisted sherry glass” holding 3.5 ounces. The writer of a 1973 article in The Times wasn’t happy with this development, referring to “the abominably proportioned waisted Elgin glass, sometimes used for sherry, or its vulgar outsize version, the schooner.”
And what of North America? Not surprisingly, we have super-sized the schooner. The OED is no help here, but this is what Wikipedia has to say:
In Canada, a “schooner” refers to a large capacity beer glass. Unlike the Australian schooner, which is smaller than a pint, a Canadian schooner is always larger. Although not standardized, the most common size of schooner served in Canadian bars is 946 ml (32 US fl oz); the volume of two US pints. It is usually a tankard (mug) shaped glass, rather than a pint-shaped glass….
In the United States, “schooner” refers to the shape of the glass (rounded with a short stem), rather than the capacity. It can range from 18 to 32 US fl oz (532 to 946 ml).
Sure enough, here’s an article from a Lawrence, Kansas, newspaper about a bar in that college town that serves 32 oz. schooners in the rounded shape — though “If the bar runs out of clean glasses on a busy night, you’ll get your 32 ounces of beer in a giant plastic cup.”
In my preliminary research on the topic, I posted on Facebook the Brooklyn sign and a query as to the meaning of “schooner.” Someone replied that in New England, it’s 10 ounces — perhaps an example of a British usage that has been retained in that region, like “rubbish.” But my favorite comment came from my friend Jan Ambrose, who is discriminating in her beer tastes: “There is no amount of Bud I would pay $3 for.”
Sometimes NOOBs are entertaining, often they’re useful, but once in a while they are purely pretentious. I’d say that’s the case when the term is very rare in the U.S. and there is an exact or very nearly exact American equivalent. The word used in a tweet by the San Francisco Business Journal and flagged to me by Nancy Friedman certainly qualifies.
The word is “hotchpotch” and the American equivalent is “hodgepodge.”
The etymology is complex and interesting. The original English term is “hotchpot,” dating from no later than 1381, and deriving, the OED says, from the “Anglo-Norman and Middle French hochepot (French hochepot) dish containing a mixture of many ingredients, especially kind of stew made with minced beef or goose and various vegetables (c1214 in Old French).” “Hotchpot” took on metaphorical meaning, as “A confused mixture of disparate things; a medley, a jumble” by 1405, followed five years later by a rhyming version, “hotchpotch,” referring both to the stew and the figurative jumble. “Hotchpot” and “hotchpotch” both acquired yet another continuing meaning, in law, as “The reunion and blending together of properties in order to secure equality of division; bringing into account, esp. on intestacies.”
“Hodgepodge” came on the scene in 1579, according to the OED, from the pen of poet Edmund Spenser. In the Dedication to TheShepherd’sCalendar, “E.K.” decries writers who have found the English language to be insufficient:
they patched up the
holes with pieces and rags of other languages, borrow-
ing here of the French, there of the Italian, every,
where of the Latin ; not weighing how ill those tongues
accord with themselves, but much worse with ours:
so now they have made our English tongue a galli-
maufray or hodgepodge of all other speeches.
“Gallimaufry” is another name for a mishmash, both of food or anything else.
I’m not sure why “hodgepodge” became the preferred American version, but it did, starting in about 1900, as this Google Ngrams Viewer chart illustrates.
My guess is that the chart actually overstates the frequency of American “hotchpotch.” The New York Times has used it 37 times in its more than 150-year-history, all but a handful coming from British or other foreign speakers or writers. The most recent exception came from a 2002 article about (American) football, noting that the New York Giants had a hotchpotch offensive line.” In 1954, movie critic Bosley Crowther referred to The Golden Coach as having “a spectacularly hotchpotchly cast.”
On the chart, it’s interesting to see that in 1880, “hotchpot” (combined British and American, red line) was the most popular form, while it barely exists today. I take my hat off to the few souls who use it; they are really owning their pretentiousness.
My observant friend Pat Raccio Hughes remarked that she’s lately been noticing young people ordering food in restaurants in a particular way. Let’s say they want a hamburger. Instead of saying “I’ll have a hamburger,” or “I’d like a hamburger,” or even the dreaded supposed Americanism, “Can I get a hamburger?”, they’ll say, “I’ll do the hamburger.”
This was a new one on me, but I immediately started to notice it in my travels. It seemed a sort of reversal of another food-related “do,” previously covered in NOOBs (“This restaurant does a nice pot roast”), so I had a hunch it has a British origin.
The only online dictionary in which I found a relevant definition was in one of the OED‘s many, many meanings for “do”: “To partake of (a portion of food or (esp.) an alcoholic drink); to eat or drink, esp. in a social context.” “Let’s do lunch” is a common phrase. But neither that nor and of the OED citations seem quite the same thing as ordering a particular item in a restaurant:
1867 J. S. BorlaseNight Fossikers 116 I asked him to come to Poole’s shanty and do a chop and a nobbler with me.
1888 Civil & Mil. Gaz. (Lahore) 8 May 2/1 Hulloo! Back again, old man?.. I think we might do a drink together in honour of the occasion.
1908 S. R. LeeOther Sara v. 65 I feel as if I could do a chop and a glass of stout now.
1987 Sunday Tel. 19 July (Colour Suppl.) 39/3 An invitation to lunch might be pitched as, ‘Come on, let’s dosushi’, or ‘We have to do some Korean’.
In 2013, someone on the WordReference.com forum asked about “I’ll do the salad.” Only a few of the respondents had encountered it, but, amusingly, most of the British ones contended it was an Americanism, and most of the Americans contended it was a Britishism. Someone posted a link to a California magazine article from 1985 about demanding and entitled restaurant customers, an example being a woman who told a waiter
Also suggesting an ’80s origin was the Random House editor and word maven Benjamin Dreyer, who responded when I brought it up on Twitter: “I’m sure I remember ‘will do the lobster’ from the last years of my restaurant career, so NYC in the late eighties.”
In 2013, an American blogger complained about the usage but had no idea where it had come from. In 2017, another blogger who also appears to be American noted:
“I’ll do the [food]” is one such phrase that’s been bothering me for the past few years—likely because I overheard it on an episode of some Beverly Hills reality show that I hated both for its existence and cult-following. Since then, I’ve continued to hear this phrase assertively stated at formal and fast-casual restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
Finally, I asked my daughter Maria, who is young and who is a writer and editor for Food and Wine magazine. She replied,
I think there’s something slightly pretentious about it, but i definitely do it maybe 50 percent of the time.
It often comes up when servers are describing specials, and they say, “We have a lovely sole meuniere with chanterelle mushrooms, and we have a pork chop with an apple demi glaze.”
And then you say, “I’ll do the pork chop.”
My conclusion: this do isn’t a Britishism, one-off or otherwise. And it seriously annoys some people.
First off, I never expect to see pudding widely used in U.S. to mean “dessert,” both because dessert is too entrenched and because pudding has a such a specific meaning here (“athick,softdessert,typicallycontainingflourorsomeotherthickener,milk,eggs,aflavoring,andsweetener”–dictionary.com).
That said, there is room (as is always the case) for ironic, self-conscious use, as Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) just observed on Twitter:
I confess I didn’t get the reference (never fancied Pink Floyd) so had to consult Wikipedia, where I found this under the entry for the song “Another Brick in the Wall”:
The song also features a group of school children for lead vocals in the second verse: as the song ends, the sounds of a school yard are heard, along with the teacher (portrayed as a Scotsman) who continues to lord it over the children’s lives by shouting such things as “Wrong! Do it again!”, and “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!”, and “You! Yes! You behind the bikesheds! Stand still, laddie!”, all of it dissolving into the dull drone of a phone ringing and ending with a deep sigh