Posted on 06/17/2018 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

When Fussy is hungry, we don’t care what you call the meal as long as food happens.

But one follower of Grammar Girl wrote in to pose the question: Dinner or supper?

Jake from Kentucky said that when he moved to Virginia, he was labeled a hillbilly for calling the last meal of the day "supper" instead of "dinner."

Grammar Girl neither confirms nor denies his hillbilly status, but she does explain on her blog why a Kentucky native would likely choose one while a Virginian chose another.

Categories: Behind the scenes

Tagged As: Writing advice

I will post my comment here since I don't want to sign in at FB: I don't know about contemporary American regionalisms, but certainly in historical use, "dinner" always meant the main hot meal of the day--*usually* in the middle of the day, when the person cooking it had the energy to create it, and the farm workers eating it needed a big meal in order to carry on until sundown. The 18th-century European aristocracy ate their "dinners," often elaborate social occasions, starting anywhere between 1 and 4 pm, presumably for the sake of the chefs (an energetic cook does a better job at 3 hours of prep between 9 and 12 a.m. than a tired cook starting those 3 hours of prep at 3 pm). I have no idea why the hour of formal dinnertime switched over to 8 pm sometime in the mid 19th century, except possibly that it coincides with an era when the rich and aristocratic had become, or at least chose to appear, less blatantly idle (i.e. post-French-Revolution) and had less free time in the middle of the day to spend on three-hour formal dinners. "Supper" was a light, usually cold, evening meal, often as simple as bread and butter, for most people more of a snack so you wouldn't go to bed hungry. Your 18th-century courtier at Versailles, on the other hand, ready for a night on the town, might talk about a lavish "petit souper" (little supper) that was composed of oysters, champagne, and other dainties--but still cold and convenient to order up from the nearest caterer when you were about to treat a sexy actress to a fancy meal before you got her into bed. A "dinner" wasn't always at midday, but it was always substantial. If you had a "dinner" at a tavern at night, it would be a large hot meal, while the person who "supped" at the next table was probably grabbing a bit of bread and cheese and, if he could afford it, some cold meat. I grew up with a grandmother (born 1894, eastern USA) who tended to use "supper" for the casual everyday evening meal, and "dinner" for something fancier, whether at midday or evening.
Susanne Alleyn | | 07/13/2018 at 09:22 AM
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