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It goes beyond cookies vs. biscuits.

Max Bonem
May 08, 2017

The U.S. and the U.K. have had some rather significant disputes about food, the earliest example involving a whole lot of wasted tea in Boston. Though the two countries are now close allies, they continue to disagree on food matters—as evidenced by the fact that they can't see eye to eye on the proper names for certain foods. Here are 15 foods that the U.S. and U.K. will never call by the same name.

Eggplant or Aubergine

The British have borrowed quite a few foods terms from their French neighbors and none is more well-known than aubergine, known as eggplant in the U.S.. The word aubergine comes from the Catalan word alberginia, which came from the Arabic al-badhinjan and the Persian word badingan before that. The American name, eggplant, has been used since the early 1800's and is a reference to the vegetable being compared to a swan's egg by an English botanist in the 1600's

Granola or Muesli 

Today, granola and muesli are very similar. However, when they were first created, and if they're still consumed in their purest forms, there are some key differences. Granola was originally developed in upstate New York out of granules of graham crackers and rolled oats. Conversely, muesli, which is uncooked and lower in sugar, was invented in Switzerland. Coincidentally though, both products were created to be served at health spas as lighter breakfast alternatives. 

Arugula or Rocket

This one has Italy written all over it. The name, arugula, comes from a mix of rucola, the modern Italian word for the green, and arucula, which was the name used by most southern Italians when they emigrated to the United States during the 1800's and 1900's. Rocket, on the other hand, comes from the northern Italian word, ruchetta, which became roquette in France, and then rocket in the U.K..

Cookie or Biscuit

In the U.K., the only "cookie" is a chocolate chip cookie. In the U.S., biscuits are buttery, flaky and often times covered in gravy or served with honey butter. However, a biscuit in the U.K. and a cookie in the U.S. are inherently the same thing. The big difference, at least in the U.K., is that biscuits are hard and cookies are soft and pliable. In the U.S., the meeting point between the two might be a scone, but that's a discussion for another time. 

Fries or Chips or Crisps

For the most part, American fries (or French fries, which are Belgian in origin) are the same as British chips. The big difference is that in the U.K., chips can come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes while still being officially recognized as chips, even though the American term has caught on in recent years. The big wedges that are served as the latter half of fish and chips are not the same thing as McDonald's fries. Period. Additionally, American potato chips and British crisps are 100-percent the same. 

Zucchini or Courgette

The U.S. term, zucchini, comes from the Italian zucchina, which has zucca as its root, meaning, "gourd, marrow, pumpkin or squash." Conversely, courgette is another French word that the U.K. borrowed. However, if a courgette grows to full maturity, then the vegetable becomes known as a marrow. 

Jam or Jelly or Jell-O

What the British call jelly, Americans call Jell-Osimple as that. Where it gets more complicated is the jam and jelly relationship. There's a bit of confusion when Americans and Brits start discussing marmalade, preserves, jam and jelly, but if you want a more in-depth explanation, go here. Basically, if you go from jelly to jam to preserves, the amount of actual fruit in the recipe and the chunkiness of the texture increases, along with the price point.

Sausage or Banger

The word, sausage, comes from the French word saucisse, which is rooted in the Latin salsicus, which means, "seasoned with salt." Banger is a more recent term that arose during World War I, when English sausages were stuffed with scraps, cereal and water and created a lot of percussive noises when thrown into a frying pan. You can learn more about the banger's origin here

Shrimp or Prawn

Shrimp and prawns are two distinctly different animals. Shrimp are smaller and prawns are larger, however, both in the U.S. and U.K., not to mention Australia and New Zealand, people have accepted their local term to encompass all sizes (i.e. most Americans use the term, shrimp, for all similar creatures and simply define them by size or count). There are exceptions, with some U.S. gulf residents using the term, prawn, and a famed Aussie convincing the world to throw some shrimp on the barbie, but for the most part, the U.S. uses shrimp and the U.K., prawn.

Whiskey or Whisky

"Whiskey” is used for American and Irish spirits, including bourbon. Conversely, “whisky” is used by the rest of the world, including Europe, Australia, Japan and, of course, Scotland. Regardless of spelling, all whiskey or whisky must be distilled to a minimum of 40 percent and a maximum of 94.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

Cilantro or Coriander

In the U.K., coriander encompasses the seeds, stalk and leaves of the Coriandrum sativum plant. In the U.S., though, the stalk and leaves are called cilantro, which is the Spanish word for coriander and was adopted from its use in Mexican cooking. The seeds, however, are still referred to as coriander. 

Romaine Lettuce or Cos Lettuce

The name romaine comes from the lettuce first making its way west from Rome—hence it was known in Italian as attuga romana. Cos, on the other hand, comes from the Greek island of Cos, from where the lettuce was possibly first produced. Additionally, cos could be rooted in the Arabic word for lettuce, khus. 

Ham or Gammon

The difference between American ham and English gammon is almost non-existent. Both terms refer to the hind leg of a pig, which is then cured, smoked or brined. The word gammon comes from the French word jambon, while ham comes from the German hamme or Dutch ham.

Popsicle or Ice Lolly

In the U.K., frozen fruit-flavored treats with popsicle sticks stuck in them are called ice lollies, referring to their similarities with lollypops. In the U.S., the trademarked name Popsicle now refers to any and all frozen, fruit-flavored novelties, much like how Kleenex is now an umbrella term for all tissues. 

Endive or Chicory

Chicory goes by many different names in the U.K., including blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk and coffeeweed. However, the U.S. adopted the name endive from Belgium, possibly after the Belgian's developed a system for blanched endive, which gave the plant its signature pale appearance. Technically speaking though, actual endive and chicory are two distinctly different plants.