British English: Pudding, Biscuits, Cookies anyone?

As an American who has just recently entered into an intimate relationship with a woman from the United Kingdom (London), I am now, among other things, going through the process of learning to parse her supposedly English language into something that I or any other American can understand.

One odd curiosity is the British word “pudding,” which does not at all mean what the Amercan term does. The American pudding would fall under the British class of pudding, but there all similarity would end (the American pudding would be considered by the British as something vaguely treacle-ish, whatever that means).

Does anyone know why there is such a discrepancy?

And then there is the word “biscuit,” which doesn’t mean what the American biscuit does. And neither does the British “cookie,” not quite.

From what I understand, British “pudding” means desert, but not always (there is, for example, Yorkshire Pudding, which is not a desert). And a British cookie is a certain type of biscuit, and there are British “biscuits” that an American would rightfully call a cookie, but which are British biscuits and which are British cookies I’m afraid I have no real clue.

At least I’m a little closer to know what Pink Floyd meant when they said, “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!”

Well black pudding sure as heck ain’t a dessert.


And it isn’t anything like a Yorkshire pudding (which interestingly enough I saw for the first time in Yorkshire). Black pudding looks like a very, very dark sausage. I too would love to hear an explanation as what all of these things have in common to get the name “pudding”.

I also remember seeing “American-style” muffins at the Edinburgh train station, which were indeed just like what I would call a muffin. On the other hand, the closest thing to an “English muffin” I saw was a scone.

Cookies are an American term… the term biscuit is basically the english term for cookie. If you’re in the supermarket, you wouldn’t say where’s the cookie aisle, you’d say where’s the biscuit aisle. The term chocolate chip biscuit would be valid… although due to popular culture, you’d likely say chocoloate chip cookie in that particular case.

You’re right about pudding… it means dessert. Black pudding and yorkshire pudding are exceptions… why? I don’t know.

As for what undead dead said… are you sure you’ve got that right? A scone is basically the same as what Americans would call a biscuit (those god aweful things they give you at KFC last time I ate there in the US) but with sugar in it. Isn’t an “English muffin” the breakfast thing that you toast (what McDonald’s use to make their breakfast sandwhiches)… they would simply be called muffins. I’ve never seen “American-Style Muffins” in the UK, hence why the place you saw actually labelled them as such…

Hope that helps…

Err…no but I wonder if you’re main focus should be in not putting her in the pudding club just yet.

I think if you work with cookie = biscuit you won’t go far wrong. I don’t believe we have cookies at all except in the computer.

Pudding does mean dessert but not only dessert. Bought yourself a pork pie hat yet ?

According to XTC “all the world is biscuit shaped” (Senses Working Overtime)

‘Pudding’, in Britain, means approximately what ‘dessert’ does in America, but there are also savoury ‘puddings’; Yorkshire Pudding (nice, you eat it with roast beef), Steak and Kidney Pudding (also nice, honestly), and Black Pudding (undeniably disgusting, do not eat it). Britons also use the term ‘dessert’, but only when they’re trying to sound posh. But do not worry, you will not be offered one of these pseudo-puddings as your dessert course. We are not barbarians. You will be offered ice cream, like everybody else.

The matter of cookies is is a confusing subject, because in recent years, ‘cookies’ have become popular in Britain. But ‘cookie’, to British people, means ‘American-style biscuit’, whereas ‘biscuit’ is what an American would call a ‘cookie’. I’m not helping much, am I? Anyway, Britain’s ‘cookies’ are thick biscuits, usually encrusted with raisins or chocolate chips, a la America (or so we imagine). British biscuits, on the other hand, can be anything we like - thin crispy things almost like crackers, or thick, almost chewy, ‘Digestives’ (so-called). In short, do not try to understand British biscuits.

Well, there’s English, and then American English. No need to prefix it with ‘British’, otherwise they’d have the OBED, rather than the OED.

Yorkshire pudding was originally served as a separate course before the meat (in the hope that it’d fill your guest’s stomachs and thus not eat so much expensive beef). This might partly explain its ‘pudding’ description, but it might be easier to just label it as one of those ‘quaint British customs’ which everyone seems so fond of.

None of this matters. The first thing you need to learn is JAFFA CAKES! ; )

If don’t know, I can’t explain. There are no words to suffice.

The term “biscuit” in the U.K. can mean either a cookie or a cracker.

Ferris writes:

> No need to prefix it with ‘British’, otherwise they’d have the
> OBED, rather than the OED.

The OED is not a dictionary of British English, but of English around the world. It includes not just British English, but the English of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, South Africa, etc.

You forgot to mention chips (french fries) and crisps (potato chips). And has she asked you to knock her up (come visit) yet, or must you ring (phone) before you can meet?

You also forgot crumpets.

Don’t get too excited if you’re in class and the hot chick next to you asks you if you’re carrying a rubber.

And when you do go visit, be sure to ask “how’s yer father”?

I was told that Nabisco or some company shipped “cookies” to Britain labled as “biscuits” to avoid a tarrif or something. Anyone ever hear that?

You forgot about Durex. :slight_smile:

Nabisco, known for its cookies and crackers, was once the “National Biscuit Company”

Don’t know about the tariff but animal crackers (a cookie Amer.) has kept the original 19th century name.

Cracker,being as I read it on the Nabisco?site,a British term at the time for a hard biscuit/cookie that cracks,or as in ginger, snaps when you break it.

In the same vein as bangers for sausage.

If your sausage has a vein in it.



Oh my good God yes! Absolutely! Seconded! Perhaps the finest invention known by man. Fire? pah! The wheel? pah! Sex? okay you have me there :slight_smile: Space travel? Pah! The person who came up with the Jaffa Cake, now that’s real genius!

But be warned, there is no such thing as one Jaffa Cake, I defy anyone to eat only one. :slight_smile:

As a Brit, I hope I can help your confusion a little more!

Since birth, I have naturally used the words cookie and biscuit. This is probably the result of being brought up in an England that has become more and more influenced by the United States. To me a cookie is always round, and that yellow/beige colour. They usually contain chocolate chips or something similar. It’s a strictly visual thing – to me there is no such thing as a square cookie. Anything thing else American’s would refer to as a cookie is a biscuit. The rest of Britain certainly does not use the same principle, but there are large number of people who do think in a similar way. A lot of the time the definition is a personal thing.

Pudding is simple – it is a synonym for desert. The word is disappearing in some areas as it seems to have gained a somewhat undesirable ‘posh’ air to it. Yorkshire pudding and Black Pudding are inconsistent cases, the result of the definition of the word changing over time. This is also the reason for discrepancy between the UK and USA. As a person who often avoids the desert tray, I’m not sure if the American pudding term is used much in Britain.