Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton
pne

How non-U I am

At some point not too long ago (couple of years, perhaps), I had come across pudding as a generic term for something you eat after the main course of a meal, even if it's not specifically what I'd call pudding.

I'd also heard that it was one of the U/non-U shibboleths but assumed that it was on the non-U side, so when I looked it up in Wikipedia just now and got pointed towards the entry on dessert, I was surprised to read that The word dessert is most commonly used for this course in U.S., Canada, Australia, and Ireland, while sweet, pudding or afters would be more typical terms in the UK and some other Commonwealth countries. According to Debrett's, pudding is the proper term, dessert is only to be used if the course consists of fruit, and sweet is colloquial. This, of course, reflects the upper-class/upper-middle-class usage. More commonly, the words simply form a class shibboleth; pudding being the upper-class and upper-middle-class word to use for sweet food served after the main course, sweet, afters and dessert being considered non-U. However, dessert is considered slightly better than the other two, owing to many young people, whose parents say pudding, acquiring the word from American media.

Whodathunkit. The word I'd always heard was dessert. But then, I never did think I was upper-class.

On the other hand, I don't call the evening meal tea, which I thought was also one of those U/non-U shibboleth things (though the Wikipedia article on the meal doesn't mention that). In fact, I've never heard the evening meal called tea before; I've only read about its use, but haven't come across it myself, as far as I can remember. Instead, we called the evening meal supper, at least if it was (as was often the case) not a cooked meal but something along the lines of sandwiches.

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