kawsper 283 days ago [-]
It can also refer to food like lunch or dinner which the danish school system did not prepare me for in their english lessons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_(meal)#Tea_as_the_evening_...
gumby 283 days ago [-]
That Wikipedia section needs a rewrite. It does mention that that usage is a class marker but then conflates it with the pastry-and-tea afternoon snack practice of upper classes. They are two radically disjoint uses.

The origin of the “tea” being the term for evening meal are pretty well attested to lie the poverty of the English lower classes who could not afford much more than a cup of tea in the evening.

I grew up using the word “tea” to refer to the evening meal in Australia (actually my parents were at pains to avoid this usage, but the rest of my dad’s family still does). My father, the only one in his family to attend university, clearly saw it as a dangerous class marker.

Interestingly my mother grew up using a chai language (Marathi) in the home but te languages (Cantonese and Fujianese) in the street. These usages of course were all for the drink.

(And btw your comment was funny to me because on of the all time greatest linguists of English was a Dane, Otto Jesperson).

rkachowski 283 days ago [-]
I'd never heard of this before. Growing up in rural Scotland, meals were always "Breakfast", "Dinner" and "Tea". There was sometimes confusion with other people over whether dinner was a midday or evening meal, but I'd never thought much of it until now.
teh_klev 283 days ago [-]
I'm also originally from rural Scotland (around Tomintoul), for us it was "Breakfast", "Dinner" and "Supper".

Upon moving to the central belt, and ingratiating myself into more middle class circles of friends I then discovered:

Breakfast - eaten usually when you get up in the morning, say early morning until ~1030am

Lunch - eaten from 12pm until ~2:30pm

Afternoon Tea - taken from around 3:30pm until 4:30pm (cakes/biscuits [cookies] and would also include some kind of sandwich - often cut into triangles)

Tea - 5pm until 6pm - usually a lighter two course meal (say an omlette) and some pudding (desert).

Dinner - taken from 7pm until perhaps 9pm - this would be a fully laiden two or three course meal.

Supper - taken from around 10pm until around 11pm (or just before bedtime) - likely cheese on toast or crackers & cheese and a cuppa.

Obviously you don't need to have every one of these meals every day of the week.

klipt 283 days ago [-]
I see where Tolkien got his inspiration for Hobbit meals...
tommoor 282 days ago [-]
A bit further south, Yorkshire in England, but yea the language is the same there.
Brakenshire 283 days ago [-]
He's actually missing out elevenses and brunch.
adrianratnapala 281 days ago [-]
And then there is "Second Breakfast". Or was that only in the movies?
teh_klev 281 days ago [-]
I've heard "Second Breakfast" is actually a thing with farmers, i.e. they get up super early (say 4am) to feed the livestock or do some other such thing (cow milking?) and they have a lightish breakfast - a cuppa, some cereal or maybe toast. Then later on, say 730am-8am, once these tasks are done and dusted, they head back to the farmhouse where they have a more hearty affair - sausages, bacon, eggs.
teh_klev 282 days ago [-]
Damn, forgot about brunch. Too late to edit in now. I left out elevenses because that's really just a cup of tea and a rich tea or digestive. I feel you need a bit more than that for it to be classified as a proper meal.
douchescript 282 days ago [-]
Yes and frunch!
281 days ago [-]
jackbravo 283 days ago [-]
In spanish I think all countries agree on at least: desayuno (breakfast), comida (lunch), cena (dinner) as the three basic. But we also have merienda and almuerzo which get different times and portions depending on country.

And there can be other terms of course. In Guadalajara, México, where I live, schools say "hora del lonche" (lunch time) to the midday meal.

codnee 283 days ago [-]
'Desayuno, comida y cena' is how people refer to the main meals in the Dominican Republic, 'almuerzo' is also used to mean lunch but mostly in formal settings. I also just asked a Colombian friend and he says 'comida' is mostly used to refer to dinner, and 'almuerzo' for lunch.

Edit: He also says 'cena' is a more formal, less common way to refer to dinner.

totalZero 283 days ago [-]
Lunch is most commonly "almuerzo" in my experience, with some variation. I think there are some Europeans and perhaps pockets of Latin Americans who use "comida" to refer to either lunch or dinner as a meal, while most people use it to refer to food in general. Dinner is "merienda" in some places, while many others reserve the common "cena" for dinner and use "merienda" to refer to an afternoon snack.
irrational 283 days ago [-]
Interesting. In Puerto Rico, comida meant food and almuerzo meant lunch.
sithadmin 283 days ago [-]
'La Comida' as the main meal of the day at approximately lunchtime is a Castillian term and generally a Spanish (in the sense of: people that live in Spain) practice. The practice and this sense of the term 'comida' aren't common in Latin America, in my experience.
283 days ago [-]
igravious 281 days ago [-]
My kid's learning Spanish in school and she learned: desayuno, almuerzo, cena.

Google translate translates lunch first as almuerzo and second as comida if you try it.

irrational 283 days ago [-]
What about second breakfast and elevenses?
philbarr 283 days ago [-]
In the North of England and Scotland it's usually Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea. If you go down South it's Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

And sometimes if you're really lucky you'll meet a Southerner who'll freak out about it, "Ha! You said 'dinner' but you meant 'lunch'!! Ha! Ha! When do you eat your lunch?! Ha Ha!!"

I had an old boss that did this regularly. The dick.

7952 283 days ago [-]
We usually have one main meal, and another that is lighter and more like a snack.

If you have the main meal in the middle of the day then it is called "dinner". The snack you have at the end of the afternoon is "tea".

If you have the main meal at the end of the afternoon it is "dinner". The snack you eat in the middle of the day is "lunch".

The difference probably depends on if you go home for a meal at mid-day or not. The later is probably more traditional as people used to work or study much closer to home. And there was somebody around during the day to prepare a meal. But nowadays going home for a main meal in the middle of the day is unusual so we all just have a small snack.

int_19h 283 days ago [-]
It can be confusing when other languages get added to the mix, because they don't necessarily follow that convention. E.g. in Russian, you traditionally translate the main meal of the day as "dinner" in English - but it's actually eaten early in the afternoon (usually around 1pm), so it's more like lunch in that regard, and honestly should probably just be rendered as such. I often found that whenever I would refer to "dinner" in my conversation, my (native English speaking) friends would automatically assume the end-of-the-afternoon meal; and the idea of having a dinner with colleagues implies some sort of highly formal event.

On the other hand, the after-work evening meal is usually less heavy, and is rendered as "supper" in English. And, again, I find that Americans usually assume that it takes place much later than it normally does, and is also much lighter than it normally is (basically a snack rather than a proper meal), if I use that word.

So clearly there is some implicit time-of-day mapping there.

signal11 283 days ago [-]
Thanks, that was very informative.

I was always told that dinner (from "dine") is the main meal of the day. So if you have a 'fancy' afternoon meal that can be your dinner (e.g. we usually do Christmas dinner between 3 and 4).

I wonder if HN knows of a linguistic map for meal names, it appears that these words shift meaning a lot.

EDIT: I thought this was interesting -- "Harvard's Dialect Survey had the question, 'What is the distinction between dinner and supper?' Here's the geographic distribution of their results from 10,661 American respondents" https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/22446/lunch-vs-d...

somewhatoff 283 days ago [-]
The slightly snooty Daily Telegraph style guide:

"Christmas lunch is what most of our readers would eat, not Christmas dinner. Use the latter only if referring specifically to an evening meal."


signal11 283 days ago [-]
(Being slightly facetious) This confirms my suspicion that the Telegraph caters to a very small minority:


Also this:


stordoff 283 days ago [-]
Even in Southern England (Cambridge), I don't think I've ever heard the phrase "Christmas lunch".
buckminster 283 days ago [-]
If you're ready for Christmas dinner at lunchtime there was something wrong with Christmas breakfast.
cfv 283 days ago [-]
I find this particular stuff fascinating.

In spanish you have 3 distinct meals, 'desayuno' 'almuerzo' and 'cena' mapping strictly to a moment of the day, more or less 'breakfast' 'lunch' and 'dinner', with the option of a merienda (roughly 'tea' but usually just sweet food like cookies or some such) between lunch and dinner. Each of this happens on a specific moment of the day (morning, noon, the optional afternoon thing and well into nighttime).

Are there other languages/dialects where the word maps the importance of the meal instead of the actual time it is consumed?

pbhjpbhj 283 days ago [-]
I don't think it's as easy as geography, it depends on your parents upbringing too.

One other great British-English question is "what do you call an individually portioned baked bread article" ... roll, barm, bap, cob, ...

teh_klev 283 days ago [-]
Scottish git here....rolls (or maybe morning rolls if posh). But where I'm from in Scotland you'd ask for "softies" otherwise you'd get a slightly harder well-fired roll if there was a choice.
stordoff 283 days ago [-]
Or "How do you pronounce 'scone'?"
nicky0 283 days ago [-]
franey 283 days ago [-]
In my part of the world (Nova Scotia, Canada), "dinner" often means either lunch or the largest meal of the day. When planning for Christmas dinner I've found myself asking, "Lunch dinner or supper dinner?"
lttlrck 283 days ago [-]
I grew up in England and it was similar. Growing up Dinner was the hot meal using taken in the middle of the day either at school (dinner ladies), or at work (I imagined hot meals servers in factories or canteens). And tea (teatime!) was cold/lighter possibly taken with tea, essentially late afternoon tea, followed by supper later in the evening. Pretty sure it’s still like this in many places.

At some point dinner transitioned to lunch and teatime to dinner for us.

voidlogic 283 days ago [-]
There is tons of disagreement about this stuff, as it varies so much region to region, but in general, in most English peaking places:

The three meals are "Breakfast", "Lunch" and "Supper". And if Lunch or Supper is the biggest/most formal meal of the day it may be called "Dinner" instead. Hence family "Christmas Dinner" may be at lunch time, but your "Dinner party" is in the evening.

gumby 283 days ago [-]
I have only encountered “supper” as the name of a primary meal in parts of the USA. I think “breakfast, lunch, dinner” likely is the most widespread formulation. I never heard “supper” in Australia or Canada at all.
voidlogic 283 days ago [-]
Its all highly regional, but I believe my characterization is an accurate generalization. Checkout the "Word Origin and History for X" for:

1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/supper 2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dinner

Interesting side note, Sup (verb) the root word for supper has been in the (old) English language since before 900 AD.

int_19h 283 days ago [-]
FWIW, I was taught "breakfast", "dinner", "supper" at school, and their English courses were supposed to closely follow British usage (although I'm not sure which regional dialects, if any specific ones, they tracked in practice). We were taught "lunch" as well, but it was treated more like a second breakfast.
umanwizard 283 days ago [-]
Thanks, I was always confused about why people talk about having "Thanksgiving Dinner" in the early afternoon and now it makes perfect sense.
jawilson2 283 days ago [-]
We (USA) say breakfast, lunch, and dinner, though my grandparents would say supper instead of dinner sometimes. I wonder where/when the split occurred.
mturmon 283 days ago [-]
Same here (also USA). My parents (born 1930s) say breakfast, lunch, dinner. My grandparents (born 1900s) said breakfast, dinner, supper. My grandmother asserted that her usage was more proper.
kasey_junk 283 days ago [-]
I think you’ll find supper in common usage in the US but always as the same meal as dinner which is the evening meal.

Dinner is definitely most common near me but I wouldn’t blink if someone asked me over for supper or said it’s supper time.

ian0 283 days ago [-]
In farms in Ireland its typically Breakfast - Dinner - Tea. Where your main meal of the day (dinner) is around 12-1pm and the evening meal (tea) is light. Your occasional cup of tea before bed is supper.

Outside of farming people have their main meal (dinner) when they come home from their office in the evening. So the lighter meal in the afternoon becomes lunch and theres no tea.

ronyclau 283 days ago [-]
Interesting! Never heard anyone use "tea" to describe the evening meal. Tea refers to the light meal at late afternoon, after lunch and before the evening meal (dinner) at my place, seems to be same as the "common" usage.

BTW, Cantonese is actually a "chai language": the character 茶 (tea) reads like "char" as in charcoal, without the h sound and in a low tone.

Y_Y 283 days ago [-]
In Ireland people would traditionally have had breakfast, then dinner, then tea as the three meals. Now that only happens in the country or on Sundays.
Bartweiss 283 days ago [-]
My grandparents (Scottish) use "afternoon tea" for the light meal you describe, and the evening meal is interchangeably "tea" or "supper". Confusingly, the lunch meal is "dinner".

I knew there was a heavy class difference here, but apparently there's also substantial regional difference even within the British Isles.

int_19h 283 days ago [-]
You're the second person to say that their grandparents use breakfast/dinner/supper. Here's the other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16134094 - note that the author is from US!

Now I'm really curious, because breakfast/dinner/supper is what I was taught in school, English being my second language. And I also very quickly found that it doesn't match common usage in any of the countries I've been too... but I thought that it's because of an attempt to better reflect the times of the meals in translation that backfired. Now it sounds like they were basically just teaching us English circa first third of the 20th century?

torstenvl 283 days ago [-]
In standard American English, dinner always refers to the main meal of the day. In traditional agrarian contexts, the meals were breakfast, dinner, and a light later meal called supper. Supper is related to the word soup and is therefore similar in connotation to the North English/Scottish use of tea to refer to a later light meal by the name of one of its (potential) components.

The shift over time from breakfast, dinner, and supper to breakfast, lunch, and dinner primarily reflects changing socioeconomic realities rather than some fundamental lexical shift.

jessaustin 282 days ago [-]
Fairly well-off family in the Ozarks, USA. We only say "dinner" when it's a special occasion and it isn't in the morning. For normal meals it's breakfast, lunch, supper. Most of my classmates in elementary school (many of whom had not enjoyed those "changing socioeconomic realities") were the same.
torstenvl 282 days ago [-]
I feel like you're conflating "traditional agrarian" with "rural." I also feel like you're conflating "changing socioeconomic realities" with "people getting rich or well-off."

Was your elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse? Did most people go home for the mid-day meal? Was school in session through the summer and winter with breaks for the planting season and the harvest? Did most people stop going after 6th, 7th, or 8th grade? If not, then I feel like your post may be non-responsive to mine.

jessaustin 282 days ago [-]
Yes I probably misunderstood you, because I have no idea what you meant by "standard American English". I'm an American and I speak English, and my rural neighbors are the same, so I thought I would report my observations. Around here we rarely use the word "dinner" for meals eaten in one's own home.
282 days ago [-]
282 days ago [-]
ScottBurson 282 days ago [-]
I think breakfast/dinner/supper was standard usage among my extended family in Alabama -- I have to say "was" because I haven't been there since the early 1970s, but I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't changed.
umanwizard 283 days ago [-]
What do you mean by “without the h sound” ? “Charcoal” doesn’t have an h sound as far as I can tell.
ronyclau 283 days ago [-]
The first syllable in charcoal reads "tʃɑ:" in IPA. I was referring to the "ʃ" sound, formally the "voiceless palato-alveolar fricative" according to Wikipedia.
umanwizard 282 days ago [-]
So, a “sh” sound, right?
monort 283 days ago [-]
They probably mean voiceless alveolar affricate, similar to "zz" in Italian pizza.
Bartweiss 283 days ago [-]
> It does mention that that usage is a class marker but then conflates it with the pastry-and-tea afternoon snack practice of upper classes. They are two radically disjoint uses.

Yep, that looks like a serious mistake. My impression is that 'tea' or 'high tea' describes an all-class, or primarily lower class, nighttime meal. "Afternoon tea" describes the ~4 PM snack with sweet pastries instead of a primary meal.

A bit of investigation says that our mutual impression is correct, but complicated by Scotland, where "high tea" may be served with the size and timing of "afternoon tea" but with heavier, savory dishes on offer.



horshod 283 days ago [-]
This is so interesting! So your mom grew up in a Marathi family in Guangdong?
gumby 283 days ago [-]
No, in Ipoh, Malaysia, where there were (unsurprisingly) few Maharashtrians, though plenty of Tamils and Sikhs due to te British Empire. Mostly Chinese people though so she needed to communicate in Marathi, Hokkien (Fujianese), Cantonese, and Malay. Then the country was (re-)invaded; the Japanese had schools (pretty much only for Indians) and taught them Japanese; after that the English came back and she learnt English.

In fact, though I also use three languages, the only one she and I have in common is English. Though I learnt some Marathi as a kid it was just how to read and how to talk about family relations (so limited in the European languages!) and food. We were in a part of Australia that hadn't yet heard that the White Australia laws had been abolished so speaking anything but English, even in your own home, was Very Bad, and emphasized your wog status.

I run into Mumbaikars and Punekars all the time here in the bay area but most are Hindi speakers.

horshod 281 days ago [-]
That's amazing!
haskal 283 days ago [-]
That is such a weird combination.

Most Maharashtrians I know from the previous generation (including my parents) are from Maharashtra, and Maharashtrians have somewhat of a reputation for not wanting to leave Maharashtra.

gumby 283 days ago [-]
The Pune I remember from my childhood was a nice, if quiet place with lots of trees, and the wonderful Deccan climate so I can understand not wanting to move.

Now it's become just another huge city IMHO.

horshod 283 days ago [-]
I know, right?
azureio 280 days ago [-]
Tea is cha in Cantonese, not te.
jwarren 283 days ago [-]
As a Londoner who moved north, it continually confuses me too.

"What are you having for tea?"

"Oh, err... just milk thanks"

wazoox 283 days ago [-]
In French, dejeuner, meaning literally breakfast, used to mean just that. But the nobility was used to getting up so late that dejeuner became lunch, diner became the evening meal, and they invented the 'petit dejeuner' to name the breakfast. In southern France and rural areas, dejeuner remained breakfast, dinner the mid-day meal, and souper the evening one. Miscommunication ensues :)
mewfree 283 days ago [-]
In Québec and French Canada in general déjeuner/dîner/souper kept its original meaning too!
yesenadam 282 days ago [-]
The word 'dîner' also meant breakfast!

Wiktionary says: dîner, From Old French disner, from Vulgar Latin *disiūnāre, from disieiūnāre, disjejūnāre (“to break the fast”)

baby 283 days ago [-]
People say “dejeuner” to mean breakfast a lot. But everyone knows that it is also not correct (we always this kind of people that will correct people on that)
wazoox 283 days ago [-]
But it is correct. The Parisian-imposed usage is obviously faulty :)
enqk 283 days ago [-]
Well thing is, in Paris, you often skip the breakfast, so the real moment where you're breaking the fast is during lunch.
adrianratnapala 281 days ago [-]
Being a Sri Lankan immigrant to Australia, I say dinner, lunch and breakfast. But I always was familar with tea being meal in England. I though it was something I got from my Noddy and William books. But actually, it might just have been an Australian thing that I was reading into othose books.

When I acutally went and lived in London, I learned that it was a northern thing. Which is odd, because in other ways Australia seems to be dominated by London culture. Or at least Australians talk like Londoners.

skety 283 days ago [-]
Yeah, and dinner being used for lunch while tea is used for dinner. Not confusing at all.
_puk 283 days ago [-]
At least you know where you stand with supper, right?!
pbhjpbhj 283 days ago [-]
Yeah, and with breakfast, cause that's always in the morning ... like a nice afternoon wedding breakfast.
Khoth 283 days ago [-]
Well, that depends. In Scotland, "supper" generally means "with chips".
QAPereo 283 days ago [-]
I remember the lunches I used to have back in primary school up in Scotland; instead of having a school dinner, you used to go down to the chip shop, and their 'lunch' was a bag of chips, and you got a free potato fritter. So it was essentially a bag of chips, with a really big chip.

Frankie Boyle

schrodinger 283 days ago [-]
And which meaning of "chips"?
nicky0 283 days ago [-]
The Scottish one
darrenf 283 days ago [-]
I don't think it has much to do with being a Londoner; I'm one too (native and resident), yet have used the "breakfast → dinner|lunch → tea" sequence my entire life.
pjmlp 283 days ago [-]
In Portuguese that happens with the word for coffee.

Asking someone during the morning if they had their coffee, means if they had taken the breakfast.

olau 283 days ago [-]
Ahem, my English book certainly featured a story about a worker kid coming home from school and having some kind of grub "for tea" at 5 pm, i.e. food with tea as the drink.

My understanding was that this usage referred to a meal eaten in the evening, i.e. not lunch. Your link seems to confirm that.

My grandmother used to serve tea for the evening meal when there were no guests other than her little grandson. But that's the only Danish example I personally know of. Don't know why, tea is not a bad drink for a meal.

sean-duffy 283 days ago [-]
To be clear, "tea" in almost all cases doesn't imply the meal will be served with tea. It's just a name for the evening meal in the north of England.
ljf 283 days ago [-]
As a kid in Sheffield I understood it as 'dinner' was your hot meal whenever you might have it, and tea was a lighter meal. So many kids had a hot meal at school (school dinner) and then went home for tea.
vidarh 283 days ago [-]
As a Norwegian in London, I still find it weird that my sons school serves "school dinner" around lunch-time. Even though the Norwegian word for dinner is "middag" which literally means "middle of the day" (though nobody uses it in that meaning any more, since it would be very confusing given that "middags-tider" "dinner-time" is pretty consistently late afternoon/early evening)
Broken_Hippo 283 days ago [-]
As an American in Norway, I still find it weird that warm lunches aren't a normal part of the school day. Then again, I remember school lunches. The kids aren't missing much.
flurdy 283 days ago [-]
Then again Norwegians have Frokost as breakfast time, whilst Danes have Frokost at lunch..
mseebach 283 days ago [-]
The Swedes also have Frokost at breakfast. The word, via germanic roots, means "early food" (present day German früh = early) and used to denote a meal taken before noon (as made sense when farm workers rose with the sun), but not necessarily the first meal, which would be "morgenmad", or "morning food" in all three languages (and a much simpler meal, as nobody was up to prepare it, as opposed to the later meal). From there, as this meal became more redundant, the word drifted earlier in the day in Norwegian and Swedish to become breakfast, and later in Danish to become lunch.

The large meal taken in the middle of the day was "middagsmad", or "midday food" (still is in the older generations, especially rurally, in Denmark), while "middag" is generally the larger, evening meal today (so, same deal as "dinner" in English).

kilpikaarna 281 days ago [-]
Interesting. Fenno-Swedish did away with "frukost", and the only morning meal is "morgonmål". Though I remember reading about someone having separate "morgonkaffe" and "frukost" as a child, and thinking it very strange...
pwagland 283 days ago [-]
From an Australian heritage, I would say that dinner and tea were, more or less, used interchangeably. Some families used one, some the other, but pretty much everyone understood both. Over time I get the feeling that dinner was the winner in that choice war, but that might just be an east coast/west coast thing.
pbhjpbhj 283 days ago [-]
My upbringing was middle-class, my dad taught for a time in Sheffield - tea just meant "evening meal" and was probably always a larger hot meal than was served at school dinners.

In South Wales they talk about "cooked dinner" which is a roasted meat meal, usually chicken for Sunday lunch, but can be any time of the week. Presumably that harks back to families having lots of uncooked meals (through poverty).

ljf 283 days ago [-]
I should have clearer, I meant the roots of the phrase 'tea'.

That said I used to confuse some very northern friends by talking about dinner as my evening meal. They literally only thought of dinner as lunch and the evening meal was only called tea.

I think the roots were from when only the father of the house had a cooked evening meal, and everyone else had tea and sandwiches or similar. But that was distant past I believe.

Sean1708 283 days ago [-]
Tea is the evening meal in most places outside of London, isn't it? It certainly was to me and my friends who grew up in Wiltshire, and going by my (admittedly poor) memory the only people I can think of who don't call it tea grew up in or near London.
whatusername 283 days ago [-]
as someone who grew up on a farm in country Australia "tea" was the evening meal every night. A "cuppa" was the drink of tea - whenever someone was visiting the house.
phillc73 283 days ago [-]
It was the same for me, growing up in rural Australia in the mid-70s and 80s. However, my parents were working class raised in Sydney.

I am not sure this is universal for Australia and may also not be the case now.

I'm fairly certain my neices and nephews (mostly teenagers now), no longer call the evening meal tea.

arethuza 283 days ago [-]
When I was growing up in North East Scotland "dinner" was the lunch time meal and "tea" was served at about 5:30pm.
dctoedt 282 days ago [-]
At the U.S. Naval Academy, the nomenclature for meals is quite literal: morning meal; noon meal; evening meal. [0]

[0] https://www.usna.edu/Student-Life/Daily-Schedule.php

int_19h 283 days ago [-]
In Russian, you invite people "for a cup of tea", which really just means "come be my guest", not any particular meal.
SerLava 283 days ago [-]
In American English, if you invite people "for a cup of tea" then someone is getting cups, hot water and tea bags, and not any meal at all.
weberc2 282 days ago [-]
Nor the American school system for me. ;)
dwyer 283 days ago [-]
I'm no Chinese expert, so somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I've found that the Chinese word 茶 (cha) doesn't always necessarily mean tea, but can refer generically to a number of different brewed drinks. e.g. barley tea (大麥茶), ginger tea (薑茶), golden oats tea (燕麥茶), etc. all of which translate to tea, but often contain no tea leaves. It may seem like a nitpick, but when you're in China and order what you expect to be a ginger flavored tea, only to receive a cup of hot water with chopped ginger at the bottom, the distinction can be important. That isn't to say you can't simply order 茶 in China and receive what you would expect, as long as you're expecting green tea. Likewise, if you simply order tea in England, you'll likely receive what the Chinese call 紅茶 (red tea). So in my mind, the words aren't exactly equivalent and I wonder how much the different variations of tea and cha relate to themselves and each other.

Edit: Applied jpatokal's correction.

Sean1708 283 days ago [-]
Reading your comment I'm a bit confused about what your point is. Even in English tea doesn't necessarily mean a drink brewed in tea leaves, which you presumably know since you yourself say:

> e.g. barley tea (大麥茶), ginger tea (薑茶), golden oats tea (燕麥茶), etc. all of which translate to tea

You call all of these things tea (and I would call them all tea too), so I'm not really sure why you say that cha doesn't necessarily translate to tea.

klipt 283 days ago [-]
I have heard some people argue that "tea" refers only to things made using the plant Camellia sinensis (e.g. black tea, green tea, white tea) and everything else (e.g. rooibos) is a "tisane".
romwell 283 days ago [-]
Never heard "tisane" being used by anyone.

Most of the people in the US don't seem to care much about the distinction between infusions containing tea leaves and infusions that don't (when it's not just tea leaves); those who do, would often ask whether it's a caffeinated "tea" or not (infusions containing tea leaves usually contain caffeine).

Personally, I prefer to use the term "herbal infusion", because it unambiguous and relatively widespread.

However, in common usage people will say "herbal tea", both in English and Russian, even when aware that the tea plant is not in the mix. It seems like the crusade for "tea/chai" meaning something brewed from tea leaves is not only doomed, but has been lost before the West started to drink tea.

ianleighton 282 days ago [-]
Tisane probably comes from French, where it is relatively common (at least understood, and a stickler for tea would correct your usage) and perhaps one would use it in English like other French culinary terms like “à la mode”
klipt 279 days ago [-]
Wiktionary says it went

English <- French <- Latin <- Greek


Interesting that in English it starts with the "tea" sound, but has a completely separate origin (I don't think the ancient Greeks were even aware of Chinese tea...)

jdmichal 283 days ago [-]
I've never heard "tisane" before, but it seems to mean "herbal tea". In which case, I've seen that distinction before also. ("Tea" having the actual tea plant, and "herbal tea" being any other plant-based brew.)
Gigablah 282 days ago [-]
A better example might be 肉骨茶 (pork bone broth) which isn't even a beverage.
devdas 282 days ago [-]
Anything else is a herbal tea or tisane.

Ginger tea in India is a sweet, milky tea with camellia sinensis and ginger for flavour.

benhsu 283 days ago [-]
There are similar words in English. My favorite example is Pudding, which can mean anything from black pudding (a sausage), to yorkshire pudding (a bread) to plum pudding (a dessert)

source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-brits-talk-about-...

mseebach 283 days ago [-]
And (as covered in the article, but bears repetition), confusingly also in many areas simply means the dessert course. You can have apple pie for pudding.
stordoff 283 days ago [-]
Yorkshire being a good example: you can have Yorkshire pudding as part of your main course, and then pudding afterwards (but sometimes might have Yorkshire pudding as pudding).
stordoff 283 days ago [-]
Are Yorkshire puddings bread? I've never thought of them as such.
0xffff2 283 days ago [-]
They are made from batter rather than dough, which I think disqualifies them as bread. On the other hand, corn bread and banana bread are also made from a batter, so you could call Yorkshire pudding a bread based on those. If I really wanted to assign them to a more common category than pudding, I would say they are a cake.
k__ 283 days ago [-]
lol, in German we only have one word for batter and dough.
283 days ago [-]
bbatha 283 days ago [-]
Tea is also used in the same way in the West for example Rooibos, mint, and chamomile are all popular “herbal teas” that don’t contain any tea leaves.
chaostheory 283 days ago [-]
So one thing that a lot of people, including the author of the article, may not realize is that Chinese 'dialects' aren't really dialects. They are each different languages spoken by different ethnic groups, kind of like how Spanish and Italian are different languages but still related. These different languages are called dialects mainly for political reasons, with the main one being unification. It's useful to think of China as Europe, unified through force instead of legislation.

Anyways, I'm going to disagree with you. imo 茶 has the same meaning in different parts of China. It's just said differently in differents parts of China just as like it's called different things in different parts of Europe. The only difference is that in China it's written as the same character.

philwelch 282 days ago [-]
A common saying in linguistics is, “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”.
qihqi 282 days ago [-]
What you have described is exactly what happened in Qin dynasty 2000 years ego. Then those languages evolved together and all influenced what is the modern Chinese.

It is funny that this is the reverse process as how Latin evolved into Italian and Spanish etc after the fall of Rome.

jjcc 281 days ago [-]
The reason that China split and unite again and again is all the dialects/languages share the same characters even sound differently. The phonetic based Latin can easily evolve differently to match the pronunciations of dialects. That's why after Rome collapse there are many new nations and can not unite again.
jpatokal 283 days ago [-]
Nit: Western (black) tea is 紅茶 hongcha, lit. "red tea". Chinese black tea refers to fermented teas like pu-erh, which are not the same thing.
mziel 283 days ago [-]
Interestingly pu-erh is often referred to as "red tea" in Western countries.
dagw 283 days ago [-]
I've only heard "red tea" used to refer to rooibos tea.
mziel 283 days ago [-]
Specifically in Poland: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh

Translating the article: Pu-erh (chin. 普洱茶, pǔ’ěr chá) – a kind of tea that is classified as red tea in Poland (black tea in China since the Chinese classify the tea according to the colour of the brew, as opposed to Europeans who classify tea according to the colour of dried leaves).

davedx 283 days ago [-]
Ahh, Polish, also one of those outlier languages that doesn't call tea by the two words in the article :)
mziel 283 days ago [-]
The article has it wrong, as I mentioned in another comment. Polish word for tea is "herbata" which comes from "herbal tea".
kingofhdds 283 days ago [-]
Not exactly. According to Bruckner, it comes from simplification of herba thea, which means "plant of tea", not "herbal tea". Then the cluster of Polish herbata, Belarusian harbata, and Lithuanian arbata grows from the same te-, even if it sounds so different, so the article is not THAT wrong. Though, I agree the statement "the world has..." is still technically incorrect as there are more languages around, than just English, and words for tea are many even if they are all of the same roots.
alanh 282 days ago [-]
Same here. I live in San Francisco and to the best of my knowledge, Pu-erh seems to be called just that. “Red tea” is not often said, but I would assume it meant rooibos. (BTW — if you haven't tried rooibos, please do. It is delicious.)
283 days ago [-]
nimrod0 283 days ago [-]
In modern usage you're right, 茶 is used as 'beverage'.

When the character was created (appears in Erya under 'plants', so a very early character), it referred to one of a number of 'bitter herbs,' and linguists think it might have sounded like 'rlya'.

The character is composed of the top part, 艹 (classically written as 艸), meaning 'herbaceous plant' and the bottom part, 余, which supplied the pronunciation 'lya'.

There are two modern characters that come out of this, 茶 (cha) and 荼 (tu); the first one is used for tea/beverage, the second one has been borrowed a lot for its sound but at least one of its meanings is still 'bitter plant'.

charlysl 283 days ago [-]
Although I don't speak Mandarin I am quite familiar with Oriental culture and my impression is that it means "brew". They have a bewildering variety of infusions, more often than not medicinal, and sometimes I have the impression it means anything with hot water. In fact, its common to just have plain hot water.
realitygrill 283 days ago [-]
My impression (as a heritage speaker) is that cha's usage has simply broadened a bit, in the same way that American English has herbal teas and fruit teas. These also don't contain any tea, and have a different term, tisane. But both cha and tea still primarily refer to, well, tea leaves.
baby 283 days ago [-]
Including the hundreds of different bubble tea.

It’s also used to refer to dim sum in hong kong as in “yamcha” (drink tea) which colloquially means to eat dim sum

bllguo 283 days ago [-]
I have just realized that I have never heard anything remotely close to "dim sum" when talking about dim sum, in both Mandarin and Cantonese. I've only heard "ying cha" or "yum cha." In fact I had to search up why it's "dim sum" in English just now. It literally means "snack"
282 days ago [-]
angrygoat 283 days ago [-]
At least in Australia, "chai" is on sale in cafes meaning Masala chai, a mix of leaf tea and Indian spices and herbs. And then you've got the "chai latte", like a regular latte but with "chai" instead of espresso.

Amusing weirding of language - it should really be a "masala"!

oasisbob 283 days ago [-]
Same in many parts of the US, except it's taken one step further with "chai tea" - even in big-budget advertisements by chains who should know better.

Seeing or hearing "chai tea" drives my Indian wife up the wall everytime.

Cyberdog 283 days ago [-]
I'm the type that gets triggered by people who enter their "PIN number" into an "ATM machine," so I can relate.
kerneltime 283 days ago [-]
+1 Would you like some coffee latte with milk and cappuccino with foam with your chai tea latte order :-P
protonfish 283 days ago [-]
Masala means "blend of spices" "Garam masala" is a blend of hot spices, "chai masala" is meant for making tea, In the US, Chai usually refers to Indian style tea with milk and spices. Source: I've worked with a lot of Indian people.
seshagiric 283 days ago [-]
As an Indian I want to put this on record, the spiced tea is absolutely obnoxious. We do not drink it. There is a different one flavored with ginger or cardamon, which people like and tastes so much better than 'masala chai' sold in US etc.
thekingshorses 283 days ago [-]
Indian here too. We do drink masala chai in India (Gujarat).
washadjeffmad 280 days ago [-]
We have a few who do garam chai with their chai pani, too.
lenocinor 283 days ago [-]
Unless you're talking about movies. :) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masala_film
cardiffspaceman 282 days ago [-]
The call center beverages seen in "Slumdog Millionaire" appeared to me to be some sort of hot milk+tea beverage. At the time based on sources I had already read, I thought this would be spiced. I remember that in the movie, each serving was in a decent size drinking glass of about 10-12 oz and the glass was wrapped with what appeared to be a paper napkin. For some reason this is stuck in my mind.
gcb0 283 days ago [-]
if you want to argue correctness, it should be "spicy" since Australia speaks english :)
oasisbob 283 days ago [-]
Translate garam masala next. :)
mseebach 283 days ago [-]
Hot or warm spices? It's a language-weirding in itself that the quality of having spices means that something is hot. Plenty of spices (most, really?) aren't hot.

Too many places, especially in Europe, fail at making spicy food, they just make burning hot (or bland) food.

toomanybeersies 283 days ago [-]
Except that chai lattes are usually made with sickly sweet syrup, rather than powder.

I must admit though, I do have a soft spot for dirty chai, which is a chai latte with a shot of espresso.

yetihehe 283 days ago [-]
Polish language has "herbata", which is a third one, from herbs.
mziel 283 days ago [-]
It comes from "herba thea" (herbal tea) so you could argue that it should still be classified under "tea" origin.
summner 283 days ago [-]
But where do we boil water for "herba-ta"? In "Czajnik" (keetle), where root "czaj" most definately comes from "cha".
jutaz 283 days ago [-]
Lithuanians call tea as "arbata", and it's boiled in "arbatinis". It also has nothing to do with "herbs". AFAIK, there is no reference to the word tea or cha anywhere in terms of tea.
spfix63 283 days ago [-]
Clearly, arbata comes from the same herbal tea origin, just the h got dropped somewhere along the way, herb -> arba, tea -> ta
fyfy18 283 days ago [-]
This would appear to be confirmed based on regional dialects from this area.

In the Samogitian dialect of Lithuanian it's spelled "erbata", however the first "a" in modern Lithuanian isn't stressed, so it's very similar. Also in Kashubian (spoken in parts of northern Poland, often considered a dialect of Pomeranian) it is the same as modern Lithuanian.

On the other hand in Sambian Prussian it is "tejs", which is similar to "teja" in modern Lativan. It's interesting how two different forms emerged in the same geographic area.

283 days ago [-]
283 days ago [-]
kingofhdds 283 days ago [-]
Sorry, but it has everything to do with herbs. As well as Belarusian harbata, and Polish herbata it comes from "herba thea" as mziel wrote.
k3liutZu 283 days ago [-]
And the close neighbors of Romania we say "ceainic" to kettle which does come from the root word "ceai".
paganel 283 days ago [-]
In Southern Romania we tend to use "ibric" more, which comes directly from Turkish.
Mediterraneo10 283 days ago [-]
In Transylvania, ibric is just the small pot used to brew Turkish coffee, while a tea kettle is ceainic. The terms don’t overlap.

I recently heard from a Turk that ibrik in Turkish today refers only to the small bucket used for washing oneself in Middle Eastern toilets. For the pot used to brew coffee, they say cezve.

chewz 283 days ago [-]
In Poland we also have a word 'imbryk' for a teapot but it is rarely used nowadays.
kornakiewicz 283 days ago [-]
That's partially true. It's from "herba thea", so basically redundantly added the "herb" part to the common tea name.
Tade0 283 days ago [-]
Derived from the latin herba thea ("herbal tea").
rimliu 283 days ago [-]
And in Lithuanian it is "arbata", likely from the Polish "herbata" :)
idlewords 283 days ago [-]
Poland represent! We also have a word for "woman" that is unlike any other Slavic language.

Polish goes its own way.

Keyframe 283 days ago [-]
Other slavic languages (croatian here) also have that word, similar. It means something different though. It meant (that) something different in polish too. "A bit" offensive, haha.
danielam 283 days ago [-]
If you mean "kobieta", from what I understand, it used to be offensive until about the 19th century, but the etymology of it is unclear and contested. I have no idea by what process it ceased to be offensive.
jasonvm 282 days ago [-]
If you don't mind my asking: what word is that? I'm only familiar with žena (I speak some Croatian but not enough to know archaisms)
Keyframe 282 days ago [-]
Kobieta, kobila in croatian meaning mare.
pvg 282 days ago [-]
That's not the same word. https://goo.gl/7ZZTrd
Keyframe 281 days ago [-]
I don't know russian and can't read most of that anyways. Here's for polish: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/kobieta and it's definitely mare in croatian, and via that same in all languages in the region since we share large volume of vocabulary.
pvg 281 days ago [-]
You should check in a real etymological dictionary. It's not entirely clear what the origins of 'kobieta' are whereas those of 'mare' are fairly well understood - it helps that it's practically universal in all slavic languages. There are lots of etymological mysteries out there, even surrounding very common words. It's fun to try but they generally don't get resolved by thinking of a somewhat similar-sounding word in a related language and glancing at wiktionary.
idlewords 281 days ago [-]
The equivalent word for mare is kobyła in Polish. It's unrelated to kobieta.
Mikeb85 283 days ago [-]
A steeped beverage from non-tea herbs isn't tea.
kybernetikos 283 days ago [-]
This is not true from a language/ word usage point of view. E.g https://www.amazon.co.uk/dandelion-tea/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i...
kriro 283 days ago [-]
Well yes the term tea is used "in the wrong way" a lot and one could argue that it is common enough that it's the right usage these days (language evolves etc.). But technically tea is only from camelia sinensis varieties. So the "herbal teas" should technically be called something else like tisane.
brigade 283 days ago [-]
Chinese call herbal teas “liang cha”; the argument that “herbal tea” should not be called tea is a somewhat modern English notion. Other languages freely use tea/cha for infusions of many plants.

Heck, why not argue that any “tisane” not made from barley isn’t a real tisane.

283 days ago [-]
anqurvanillapy 283 days ago [-]
I’m a native (simplified) Chinese speaker and I found it interesting to see the growth of meanings of tea, from originally a kind of bitter vegetable (荼, as 艹 for vegetable-related, 余 from 涂 for muds), to brewed drinks. For instance if you order a cup of 果茶 (lit. fruit tea), you will end up having a cup of hot water with sugar and cut apple pieces and more. The meaning of the “brewed drink” is IMO really pervasive.
Keysh 281 days ago [-]
There's a more comprehensive version of this story at linguist Dan Jurafsky's web site (it can also be found in the book by Jurafsky mentioned by aniket_ray): http://languageoffood.blogspot.com/2014/08/tea-if-by-sea.htm...
ekianjo 283 days ago [-]
Tea to Japan was certainly not "by land". I know they want to make it into a simple rule, but that's just not as simple as they pretend.
jpatokal 283 days ago [-]
The friendly article notes that both Japan and Korea likely acquired the word long before the Silk Road.

Relevant random factoid: it's possible to tell when many Chinese words were imported into Japan based on the pronunciation, which varies based on where the Chinese capital (and hence the ruling class dialect) happened to be. See "Onyomi" under https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanji.

clw8 283 days ago [-]
I somehow missed that part of the article, but that's not true. Tea is cha in Korean and Japanese, and that pronunciation post-dates Old Chinese. (which is why Min Nan is different, as it preserves numerous features from Old Chinese)
ekianjo 283 days ago [-]
Yeah I am aware, I speak Japanese.
schemathings 283 days ago [-]
And if you're an American in Japan speaking to a Japanese who speaks English they say Chinese alphabet (a literal translation) rather than Kanji (based on my 6 trips there)
drawnwren 283 days ago [-]
Aren't there also some words in Kanji that don't have Chinese origins? Like 硝子 for example?
clw8 283 days ago [-]
The Japanese envoys came directly to Xi'an, then capitol of China, and also part of the Silk Road, so they still use the "land" word.
hhw 282 days ago [-]
This was during the Heian period of Japan / Tang dynasty of China though, and the spoken language in Xi'an would have been closest to modern day Min Nan. I'm not sure what other dialects pronounce tea as "cha", but modern day Mandarin originated with the Henan dialect during the Song dynasty with heavy influences from Mongolian in the Yuan dynasty and Manchurian in the Qing dynasty, and contains many sounds not present in any other indigenous Han dialects. Japan would have adopted tea long before. However, from what I know of the Japanese language, they have both archaic and modern pronunciations of many words, and perhaps their word for tea may be one of them with the modern form adopted much later.
neffy 283 days ago [-]
Exactly and London working class slang for tea is cha, which I always assumed must have originated at the docks.
ekianjo 283 days ago [-]
> London working class slang for tea is cha

This is actually featured in the movie "Bronson", and I was unaware of its usage in the UK until I saw it.

erebrus 283 days ago [-]
Portugal imported tea from India way before Macau. That was the whole thing of the sea route to India...
pedrosorio 283 days ago [-]
Portuguese went to India for the tea? That doesn't sound right at all. Who was importing large quantities of tea to Europe before then? They went there to take the valuable spice trade.

Tea was imported by the Portuguese from China and became popular in Europe after that. The British then started producing tea massively in India to obtain it at a lower price.

From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tea

"The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years. Tea likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink.[1] An early credible record of tea drinking dates to the 3rd century AD, in a medical text written by Hua Tuo.[2] Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century.[3] Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption, to India, in order to compete with the China monopoly on tea.[4]"

megaman22 283 days ago [-]
Spices were far bigger initially. Black pepper, cloves, nutmegs and mace were the real money makers. Cloves and nutmegs especially, since they only grew natively on a handful of the Molucca islands, and a succession of bloody and exploitative regimes maintained a monopoly on production and export almost into the 19th century.
phillc73 283 days ago [-]
Cloves and nutmegs may have been somewhat more widespread than just the Molucca islands, although the Dutch and Portuguese did much to try and protect their spice trade monopoly by limiting production to those few islands.

Visiting Mindanao island, in the Philippines in 1686, the Englishman William Dampier observed the following:

"...but the nutmegs this island produces are fair and large, yet they have no great store of them, being unwilling to propagate them or the cloves, for fear that should invite the Dutch to visit them and bring them into subjection as they have done the rest of the neighbouring islands where they grow. For the Dutch, being seated among the Spice Islands, have monopolised all the trade into their own hands and will not suffer any of the natives to dispose of it but to themselves alone. Nay, they are so careful to preserve it in their own hands that they will not suffer the spice to grow in the uninhabited islands, but send soldiers to cut the trees down. Captain Rofy told me that while he lived with the Dutch he was sent with other men to cut down the spice-trees; and that he himself did at several times cut down 7 or 800 trees. Yet although the Dutch take such care to destroy them there are many uninhabited islands that have great plenty of spice-trees, as I have been informed by Dutchmen that have been there, particularly by a captain of a Dutch ship that I met with at Achin who told me that near the island Banda there is an island where the cloves, falling from the trees, do lie and rot on the ground, and they are at the time when the fruit falls 3 or 4 inches thick under the trees. He and some others told me that it would not be a hard matter for an English vessel to purchase a ship's cargo of spice of the natives of some of these Spice Islands."[1]

Whether the trees were truly native to this island, or brought there from elsewhere, is probably not known.

[1] A New Voyage Around the World, William Dampier, 1697, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500461h.html

phillc73 283 days ago [-]
Are you sure? I thought the English brought tea to India after stealing it from China in the 19th Century.[1]

Was there another source in India which the Portuguese had earlier access to? My initial cursory investigation via Wikipedia seems to indicate China as the initial source.[2] I'd be really interested, from an historical point of view, if this wasn't the case.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3081255-for-all-the-tea-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tea#Portugal_and_It...

JumpCrisscross 283 days ago [-]
Charles II, after losing the Battle of Worcester, fled to Europe where he stayed for nine years [1][2]. There he discovered tea. He also discovered Catherine of Braganza, a tea drinker (like most of the Portuguese nobility) whom he married [3].

In 1660 the British monarchy was restored. Charles and Catherine then introduced the custom of tea drinking to the British court.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_of_England

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_of_England

[3] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Braganza

disconnected 283 days ago [-]
You're all way off.

A pair of Gauls and a Breton (by pure coincidence) brought tea to England.

It's all documented in history books such as this one:



phillc73 283 days ago [-]
The demand for tea amongst the English aristocracy predated production in India.

The main impetus for the English to grow tea in India, was that it was costing too much to buy from the single monopolistic source, China. Basically, the Honourable Company was trading opium for tea. More money could be made, meeting English demand for tea, by producing it on Company controlled land.

The question is, where did Catherine of Braganza source her tea from? India, as suggested by the grandparent comment, or China.

dark_ph0enix 283 days ago [-]
Well that and the spices
HumanDrivenDev 283 days ago [-]
In modern Taiwanese Min Nan, "tê" sounds more like "day" than "tea". Maybe it sounded different in the Min Nan of Fujian a few hundred years ago, or something was "lost in transcription" when the dutch wrote "thee".
wluu 282 days ago [-]
I’m not sure how you got “day" out of it, the linked recording sounded (to me) more like "the", if you were trying to say the word "there" (but obviously without the "re").

My mums' native dialect is Teo Chiew, which is a variant of and falls under the Min Nan family of dialects (but can be quite different in many ways, a native speaker of one does not necessarily means mutual understanding of the others). And while similar, Teo Chiew uses a "dê” rather than "tê" for tea.

On another note, the area is also the origin of the "Gong Fu Cha" style tea ceremony. [1]

[1] https://www.kyarazen.com/chaozhou-gongfu-tea/

HumanDrivenDev 280 days ago [-]
> I’m not sure how you got “day" out of it, the linked recording sounded (to me) more like "the", if you were trying to say the word "there" (but obviously without the "re").

What kind of English accent do you have?

I'm from New Zealand, so the way I pronounce vowels is probably differs a lot from the prestige accents of English.

wluu 275 days ago [-]
Ah. I’m from across the ditch (Aussie for those unfamiliar with the term).
jdmichal 283 days ago [-]
I don't have any reason not to believe you, but your position does not seem to be backed up by Wikipedia, where /d/ is not listed as a phoneme.


I have a hypothesis, mostly dependent on the position of a native English speaker, which I have no idea whether you are or not:

It's common to not be able to easily distinguish /e/ and /ai/. English does not have the former, and it tends to best match to the /ai/ diphthong, which glides over and would "average" to /e/.

It's also common to confuse aspiration and voicing on stops. English initial voiced stops are unaspirated, while initial unvoiced stops are aspirated. Hence, an unvoiced, unaspirated initial stop does not typically occur in English, and can vary in listener interpretation between /t/ or /d/.

This article covers voice onset time (VOT) and how voicing and aspiration play into it:


Important note is that VOT is negative for voiced, near zero for unvoiced, and positive for aspirated. This measurable phenomenon backs up the fact that unvoiced, unaspirated sounds are basically in between standard English sounds and why you can get differing interpretations.

HumanDrivenDev 283 days ago [-]
Yeap you probably hit the nail on the head. I'm a native English speaker and I only know a tiny bit of Hokkien. I really struggle with the aspirated/non-aspirated aspect of many of the consonants.

Not sure about the vowel sounds, I found those all reasonably trivial to distinguish.


If you click on the "+" button, there's a voice recording of how to pronounce it. It's from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. To me it sounds much more like "day" than "tea".

jdmichal 283 days ago [-]
The vowel sound definitely matches /e/. It sounds like /ai/, but there's none of the glide that would be present in a diphthong.

I ran it by my wife, as she's a native Spanish and English speaker, and she agrees with /e/ over /ai/.

Thanks for that link. Very cool site; reminds me of dict.leo.org for German.

HumanDrivenDev 283 days ago [-]
The vowel sound in day is /ai/?

I can hear a slight difference between the vowel sounds in both tê and day. That's something I always just attributed to accent, not a different vowel - but I suppose vowel changes can be very subtle.

jdmichal 283 days ago [-]
Er... No, I brain farted. The diphthong in "day" is /eɪ/. /aɪ/ (which I was listing as /ai/ on my phone) is as the word "tie".

So maybe that makes it more obvious why it would be easy to confuse /e/ and /eɪ/, especially when your native language only has the latter. Brain heuristics work regardless of whether you want them to or not, and they'll fill in the missing /ɪ/ even if it's not present.

hhw 282 days ago [-]
My father is a baby boomer born in Xiamen, Fujian and then left for Taiwan as a child with his family in 1949, although did most his schooling in Hong Kong and then came to Canada for University. He pronounces it somewhere between "te" and "de", but nothing like "day".
clw8 283 days ago [-]
The Min Nan "t" is an unaspirated consonant (meaning if you hold your hand in front of your mouth when you pronounce it, you shouldn't feel the puff of air), like the t in Spanish. English speakers routinely interpret these sounds as aspirated consonants since we lack those sounds. Why Dutch writes it as thee, I don't know, since Dutch lacks aspiration. Wiktionary just said the h is faux-Greek but I don't understand the motivation of that.
DonaldFisk 283 days ago [-]
Neither Cantonese nor Mandarin has voiced stops. In Yale and Pinyin, t is aspirated as in English "tea", d is unaspirated as in the t in English "Steve". English does have the sound, but only as an allophone of t when it's preceded by s.
Zeklandia 283 days ago [-]
The Dutch would have pronounced 'thee' closer to 'tay' (i.e. /tʰe/) whereas modern English speakers would pronounce it like the word 'thee' (/ði/).
gadders 283 days ago [-]
In London, "Char" is also slang for tea as in "a cup of char". Looks like there is some overlap.


pbhjpbhj 283 days ago [-]
In UK people also sometimes solely use the term "brew" or "cuppa".
gadders 283 days ago [-]
Yes, I'm sitting there now. You can also ask for a "cup of splosh".
pbhjpbhj 283 days ago [-]
Oh, don't know that one; I guess South-East .. where's it from?
gadders 283 days ago [-]
Yeah, I think so.
codeN 283 days ago [-]
Interestingly in my home state of Kerala situated in the south western coast of India. Tea is called Chaaya while tea leaves are called Theyila where ila means leaf. The heavy commercial production of tea was started in Kerala only after the British arrived.
drwu 283 days ago [-]
I thought `Chaaya` could mean 茶叶(chá'yè), while 茶 is the tea and 叶 are the leaves.

The interesting thing here is that the old pronunciation of 茶(cha) was with a long vocal (chaa), whereas 叶(ye) was short and sounded like (ya)

cevn 283 days ago [-]
In hindi, chai is written चाय - chaaya, but the final "a" is elided due to language rules. I wonder if it has anything to do with that.
drwu 280 days ago [-]
thank you, exactly this is what I want verify, that it is just a coincident.
devdas 282 days ago [-]
Or just chai
t1o5 283 days ago [-]
Fellow Keralite here. I can relate to this. Chaaya in Kerala is tea made with tea leaves and milk. Black Tea is called "Kattan Chaaya", literally translates to "strong black tea".
gerhardi 283 days ago [-]
Almost the same goes for the word Restaurant. Everywhere in the world it's almost the same - except in Russia it is pectopah! :)
DoreenMichele 283 days ago [-]
For those who can't read any Russian, or never read that short story where this is the punchline essentially, pectopah is pronounced restoran. It only drops the T, basically.
bzbarsky 283 days ago [-]
The reason it drops the T is that the word came to Russian from French (as did so many other words). And the French word "restaurant" is pronounced with a silent 't' at the end, in the typical French way. So the cyrillic rendering of that sound ends up without a 'т' on the end.
r3bl 283 days ago [-]
> For those who can't read any Russian

That's Cyrillic alphabet, not Russian. Cyrillic is used in other languages as well. I was born in Serbia (which also uses Cyrillic) so I understood the punchline, even though I would hardly say I "read any Russian". It's more of a south and east Slavic thing than it is a Russian thing.

ivanhoe 283 days ago [-]
It should be really written in upper case, as PECTOPAH, to match the cyrillic letters better :)
chki 283 days ago [-]
or just write the cyrillic letters, i guess: ресторан ;)
babuskov 283 days ago [-]
Yup, transliterating PECTOPAH from Cyrillic to Latin you would get RESTORAN.
milansm 283 days ago [-]
Which is pronounced basically the same. Only the 't' at the end is dropped. Same goes for other Slavic languages.
tombh 283 days ago [-]
Just to be nitpicky, the Cyrillic is ресторан, so it's pronounced something like; "restoran".
gerhardi 283 days ago [-]
Yeah, thats the pun - sorry for not being clear with my intention! Same idea applies for many words or names where the cyrillic characters have close resemblance with some other latin characters ("Hatawa is a popular russian/slavic girl's name" - of course properly it should be translittered as Natasha...)
emptyfile 283 days ago [-]
It's also "restoran" in pretty much every Slavic language AFAIK.
akkat 283 days ago [-]
In Hebrew it is completely different מסעדה or mis'adah
sorokod 283 days ago [-]
Wouldn't this be a word made up in the early 20th century? Many Hebrew words were created pretty much from nothing at that time to revive an ancient language into modern use.
akkat 283 days ago [-]
I checked and you are correct.
283 days ago [-]
richardknop 283 days ago [-]
In Slovak tea is caj (ignoring diacritics, or "čaj" as written properly, it's just I have English keyboard and diacritics is hard to use on it). And it’s pronounced as “chaj”. So very similar to cha. And it turns out Slovakia is a landlocked country. Just one data point but seems to be additional evidence.
bitcoinusername 283 days ago [-]
In Croatia it is "čaj". Although it has a coast on Adriatic and coastal people use "čaj" as a word too, despite Italian influence (which uses tè for tea). Even people on islands that were influenced hugely by the Republic of Venice.
smcl 283 days ago [-]
I'm curious - was the Croat language (or some parent of it) pretty predominant during the times of the Republic of Venice? Or is that a "new" thing after the unification of Yugoslavia, and prior to that Italian (or some Venetian dialect) was widely spoken?
Keyframe 283 days ago [-]
It was predominant. Only difference was that latin was predominant in written form until 16th century, after which there was some kind of standardization of the language on one main dialect (we have three) and a movement(s) towards written croatian as well.
bitcoinusername 283 days ago [-]
People living on the island Hvar speak quite a unique version of Croatian. The Venice influence is huge there, graveyard is filled with gravestones of 16th+ century elite.

I sometimes find them hard to understand due to heavy usage of words with Italian roots. But their grammar is equivalent to Croatian grammar.

They also use the word "čaj".

I'd say Croatian as a language was popular and was heavily used on coastal areas even before Italian influence, and after too.

ant6n 283 days ago [-]
I'd say all Slavic languages use that word.
rimliu 283 days ago [-]
Except Polish, like stated above.
ajuc 283 days ago [-]
And Belarussian. And Kashubian.
skety 283 days ago [-]
Any Vietnamese know why Vietnam has "tea" in the middle and "cha" in north or south on the map? I spend 2 months in the north then lived for a few month in Saigon. I never came across people using anything other than "trà" (cha).
favadi 283 days ago [-]
Vietnamese uses both "chè" and "trà". But for some reasons, for things like iced tea, bubble tea we only use "trà". For the traditional tea that serves in a teapot, either is fine.
skety 283 days ago [-]
I forgot about chè, thank you for reminding me. this word is also a desert according to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A8
sondh 283 days ago [-]
What did you mean saying "tea in the middle"? I'm quite sure we Vietnamese only use "chè" or "trà", both variants are basically "cha" I think.
skety 283 days ago [-]
Sorry if I wasn't clear. Looking at the map, there are 6 dots over Vietnam. The 2 in the middle of Vietnam (around Hue and Danang I guess) are pink, for "te" as opposed to the other one which are blue, for "cha".
taejo 283 days ago [-]
Kind of strange that this refers to "Sinitic" contrasting to "Min Nan" when Min Nan is a Sinitic language.
tsing 283 days ago [-]
Just learnt that "Min Nan" dialect can be referred to "Hokkien"
jpatokal 283 days ago [-]
"Hokkien" is an approximation of how "Fujian" is pronounced in Min Nan, which in turn means "Southern Min" (dialect/language).


HumanDrivenDev 283 days ago [-]
Singaporeans and Malaysians almost always call the language "Hokkien" - at least when speaking English. "Min Nan" seems like a term only linguists use.
mdadashyan 283 days ago [-]
Interesting enough, in Armenian tea is pronounced as 'tey' and Armenia is surrounded by countries where tea is pronounced as "chay" - Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran.
tigrank 283 days ago [-]
Came here to say this.
abritinthebay 283 days ago [-]
This is a quite cool breakdown of the differences.

One thing it misses is in English (ie, the country) usage there is both.

Tea, obviously, is more common but the phrase "a cup of char" is clearly derived from the Chinese and Indian origins. Interestingly it (at least was) primarily a working class phrasing, possibly originating with sea-faring types and dock workers.

Of course now the US is confusing matters by making "chai" be ubiquitous for Massala chai, but that's a different matter!

aniket_ray 283 days ago [-]
If you are interested in the linguistics of food names, might I recommend: Daniel Jurafsky's The Language of Food[1]

[1] - https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Language_of_Food_A_...

justaaron 283 days ago [-]
I'd always understood the T to come from the Taxa (Alfandegaria) imposed upon the blocks the Portuguese imported to Europe and sold to the rest of Europe.

Cha (Portuguese) because the Portuguese were not only the first Europeans to reach China by boat, but Japan and India as well, so they used the rightful Asian terms for it, having no other. (back when the Dutch were still pirates hoping to catch a laden Portuguese caravella. FWIW.)

nimrod0 283 days ago [-]
"A few languages have their own way of talking about tea. These languages are generally in places where tea grows naturally, which led locals to develop their own way to refer to it. In Burmese, for example, tea leaves are lakphak."

Actually, 'lakphak' is not entirely distinct, and likely related to 'tea,' at least the 'lak' part. The STEDT project has a number of reconstructions across Sino-Tibetan for etyma variously meaning leaf, flat object, and tea: http://stedt.berkeley.edu/~stedt-cgi/rootcanal.pl/etymon/786

See also my comment here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16134698

The first character associated with a 'bitter herb' that later became specific to tea, 荼 (rlya), is probably a cousin of this 'lak' in modern Burmese.

apt-get 283 days ago [-]
Moroccan arabic actually uses both word: the classical "shay" and "atay", which is more common.
jolesf 283 days ago [-]
The map looks so very similar to this modern OBOR project http://mercaturaglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/1200x-...
kerneltime 283 days ago [-]
If you want to read more about history of tea consumption and the role of China, India and England, I recommend reading "For all the team in china: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History" https://www.amazon.com/All-Tea-China-England-Favorite/dp/014... It helped me understand why green tea is dominant in China vs. black tea in most other places..
aamody 283 days ago [-]
In a world with the many complexities of language, its refreshing to see an example of a word that's pretty much used in 2 ways almost everywhere!
myth_buster 283 days ago [-]
If this fascinates you as it does for me, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies [0] is an equally fascinating read, although there are arguments against the hypothesis.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-Societies/dp/0...

ShirsenduK 283 days ago [-]
The local Nepali speaking people of Darjeeling, which is famous its champagne of teas, call it chi-yah. Close to Cha but not quite.
njsubedi 283 days ago [-]
I was about to add this. It's "chi-yaa" almost all over the mountains of Nepal.
ShirsenduK 283 days ago [-]
I hear it as ending with yeah! As no one says no to them. :P

Although I live in that area and don't drink tea.

mazerackham 283 days ago [-]
sounds like cha-ye, or tea leaves in Mandarin
LesZedCB 283 days ago [-]
sounds really close to me
odiroot 283 days ago [-]
What about "herbata" in Polish then?
Sean1708 283 days ago [-]
According to this[0] it comes from the Latin for Herbal Tea (herba thea).

[0]: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/herbata

283 days ago [-]
yarek 283 days ago [-]
Comes from French "herbe" meaning "grass/plant". "Herbe" is also source for English "herb".
Anderkent 283 days ago [-]
Latin herba actually, rather than french herbe
seba_dos1 282 days ago [-]
What about "czajnik" (teapot) in Polish then? ;)
Profan 283 days ago [-]
This is an excellent map for the purpose of it, lifted from a bunch of research (shows the words in each individual language and also which language they originated from)


283 days ago [-]
etqwzutewzu 282 days ago [-]
Wikipedia has a long page on the etymology of tea and how to say it in various langages in the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_tea
llamaz 283 days ago [-]
I'm confused. In Urdu and Hindi it's "chai" (rhymes with eye) not chay (rhymes with stay)
coolsunglasses 283 days ago [-]
They're using an unusual transliteration. "ay" can sound like "eye" in English but it's atypical to use that in transliterations now-a-days.
int_19h 283 days ago [-]
They're using a transliteration that's usual for basically everything but English, the one that assumes common Latin sounds for all the individual letters, and then you just pronounce them one by one.
coolsunglasses 280 days ago [-]
They're using a transliteration that's unusual: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai
kingofpandora 283 days ago [-]
What's the confusion?
llamaz 283 days ago [-]
why the article contradicts me and says the tea is "chay" in Hindi and Urdu. I'm not saying the articles wrong, but maybe there's something I'm missing
grzm 283 days ago [-]
Tranliteration, particularly into English, is fraught with myriad difficulties, the least of which being English orthography itself: there isn't a consistent mapping of sounds to letters. And there are often different systems of transliteration: from Japanese, 茶 (tea) can be transliterated as cha (Hepburn) or tya (Kunrei).

I don't read the article and the spellings as prescriptive with respect to pronunciation. I'm not familiar with transliteration of Hindi or Urdu (if someone more knowledgable on the subject would chime in, I'd love to learn a bit more), but I wouldn't read too much into the spellings.

jvandonsel 283 days ago [-]
I'd like to see the equivalent map for 'coffee'.
neaden 283 days ago [-]
This article is about the spread of the word coffee, and has a small map at the end. http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/12/10/coffee_...

It's pretty similar with coffee being almost universal across different languages.

narvind 283 days ago [-]
In south india Tea is called "theneer" in the Tamil language. I wonder if that's because it came from Sri Lanka as opposed to Northern Indian states.
jhoechtl 283 days ago [-]
Austria is isolated from sea and the one and only word used to reference that beverage is "Tee" (tea), so we have one exception to the rule.
awiesenhofer 283 days ago [-]
well, back then Austria still had sea access via Trieste etc.
ferreirix 283 days ago [-]
There are exceptions since the Portuguese brought tea from India to Europe by sea, and still they call it "cha"
mrob 283 days ago [-]
It's mentioned in the article. "And the Portuguese traded not through Fujian but Macao, where chá is used."
ZenoArrow 283 days ago [-]
Some people in England also use "cha" as slang for tea. It's not widely used, but it is present.


mhandley 283 days ago [-]
Likely that influence comes from when India was part of the British Empire. Lots of Indian-derived words made it into British English.
gerdesj 283 days ago [-]
Pyjamas and bungalow are examples of borrow words from India. India has rather a lot of languages and I don't think you can lump them all into "Indian".

"Char" as in "cuppa char?" is the usual spelling (would you like a cup of tea?)

According to this: http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/cup-char it is likely that "char" is derived from Chinese (another country with rather a lot of languages - would the real Chinese please stand up!)

Y_Y 283 days ago [-]
I think this is overly snippy. GP just seemed to imply that the words cone from India, not that India has a single language.

Also as far as i can tell "cha" is far more common than "char" in the British Isles.

gerdesj 281 days ago [-]
"Also as far as i can tell "cha" is far more common than "char" in the British Isles."

No, it isn't. "Char" is always the spelling I have encountered here (in 47 years).

iamshs 283 days ago [-]
Caravan Thug Juggernaut Guru Avatar Karma Nirvana Cheetah Jungle

Are just some Indian words loaned by English.

Two interesting words that Punjabi/Hindi has loaned from French is Savon (sabun) and Cartouche (Kartoos).

trextrex 283 days ago [-]
Right, this was probably because it was already called "cha" in India by then, and the Portugese didn't have direct contact with the people speaking Min Nan Chinese, but rather the Indians who used the Sinitic version of the name.
Narishma 283 days ago [-]
It's addressed in the article.
pedrosorio 283 days ago [-]
from China
arketyp 283 days ago [-]
This adds a new dimension to the chai latte as a token of globalization. Breaking borders.
2T1Qka0rEiPr 283 days ago [-]
I had just made a pot, sat down to have breakfast and came across this. wonderful!
Fiahil 283 days ago [-]
And what about South America ?
gota 283 days ago [-]
In Brazil, at least, the Portuguese 'cha' is used
283 days ago [-]
totalZero 283 days ago [-]
In spanish, té. I presume yerba mate falls in a different hot steeped beverage category.
thaumasiotes 283 days ago [-]
The headline seems to imply an overland trade route between China and Japan.
expertentipp 282 days ago [-]
Wrong. Herbata if Slav or Commonwealth.
snaky 282 days ago [-]
Lithuanian - lt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbata

Polish - pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbata

That's pretty much all exceptions.

seba_dos1 282 days ago [-]
Apparently it still comes from "herbal tea" (herba thea).
brepl 282 days ago [-]
Comments like this are what the internet is all about! AFAIK Yugoslavs call tea "čaj" (pronounced... chai!). I have no idea about other Slavs. And if by Commonwealth you mean the British one, I think the biggest member state is India, where "chai" is also the word.
expertentipp 282 days ago [-]
I meant Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth:)
kryachkov 283 days ago [-]
In Swedish ”te” is what is usually refeerrd as a tea (in England for example). Herbal tea is ”chai” in Swedish
metafunctor 283 days ago [-]
I think “chai” is not really a Swedish word, but a word recently imported by the cafes, signifying some kind of tea-based beverage.
hashmush 283 days ago [-]
Herbal tea is örtte (lit. herb + tea). Chai is something different.
Snortibartfast 283 days ago [-]
Correct. When we swedes say "chai" we actually mean "masala chai".
juji 283 days ago [-]
er sadfgadfg asd
juji 283 days ago [-]
a sdfas dasdf asdf
sam78yz 283 days ago [-]
In my land it's called chai.
dgellow 283 days ago [-]
By « the world » I guess they mean « English »
bodono 283 days ago [-]
You didn't read the article obviously.
lyrachord 282 days ago [-]
实际上这是两个字。茶和荼。 http://www.zdic.net/z/22/kx/8336.htm http://www.zdic.net/z/22/js/837C.htm



Grustaf 281 days ago [-]
I'm confused, tea and cha are the same word.


shakna 281 days ago [-]
Yes, and that's pointed out:

> Both versions come from China.

> The term cha (茶)

> But in the Min Nan variety of Chinese, spoken in the coastal province of Fujian, the character is pronounced te.

The same word, originating in China, was brought by trade routes around the world, with slight variations in pronunciation, resulting in two words.

Grustaf 281 days ago [-]
Then the article title is very misleading...
shakna 281 days ago [-]
I think, from what I can guess, that you are reading the wrong context from the title.

We have two words for tea, today, because of one word in the past. Most languages today use those at least one of those two words.

It may have been one word in China, but it isn't in the languages that it influenced.

Grustaf 281 days ago [-]
I know the history of the word very well, and I understand that clickbait headings have to simplify.

But if you want to call CHA and TEA different words, in what sense are TEA and THE (French) the same word? I would say they are either all the same word (how I would phrase it) or all different - since they are in different languages.

But this is all semantics, not very interesting really.

bitwize 283 days ago [-]
Disproof by counterexample: The Japanese word for tea is cha/ocha, which must surely have arrived by sea (Japan is an island archipelago!).
Ngunyan 283 days ago [-]
In the Philippines, it's "cha-a" or "tsaa", which is a counter-example for "cha" being spread across land. The Philippines was consecutively under Spanish and American rule and 99% of Chinese there speak Hokkien/Min-nan yet do not use "te".

Seems the same applies to Guam as well.