Speak Up explains: Lunch, dinner or tea?


As you know, food in Britain is often a problem
for Italians. They tend to think that British food is of low quality and historically they
were right, although I hope the situation is now improving, but food is also a linguistic
problem for Italians in Britain because the British seem to have two different systems
of indicating the meals that take place during the day. Everybody agrees that when you get
up you have breakfast, but then what do you do… what do you do when you eat at midday,
what do you call that? Traditionally, this is known as lunch, but in some parts of the
country, particularly the industrial areas, this is often known as dinner, because it
is the … the main meal of the day, but throughout the country in schools, where a meal is served
at noon or at one o’clock, this is also known as dinner, and the lady who serves it
is known as the dinner lady. And the other confusing thing is of course that at Christmas,
when it should essentially be a Christmas… a Christmas lunch, but most people refer to
it as a Christmas dinner, even though it takes place usually at lunch time and finishes by
three o’clock, so everybody can watch the Queen’s speech. Then we get to the evening.
In the evening the middle classes or… traditionally call the evening meal dinner or supper, but
in industrial areas, where people tend to eat a little earlier, the evening meal is
often known as tea. And yet tea time also exists in Britain as the… hot cup that you
drink around 4 o’clock with sandwiches. So if you do talk about lunch and somebody
corrects it for (to) dinner, or you talk about dinner and somebody corrects it for (to) tea,
don’t worry, you’re not making a mistake, you’re just dealing with the… the strange
ambiguity of English… of the English language when it comes to meal times.

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