Chips vs. crisps: the big debate
I think I’ve well and truly screwed up my kids! It was all out war last night at the dinner table. We were having tacos and were discussing the tortilla chip – I was calling them chips of course and so was my daughter Anna Grace. My eldest, Sam kept correcting us every time we said chip, telling us it was indeed crisp that we should say. To my amazement, Anna Grace insisted they were called tortilla chips, not crisps. Sam, the antagonist of the night, kept saying how it was idiotic to call them chips when chips are the hot ones you cook up in the oven. Then Anna Grace insisted those were called fries to which Sam busted out laughing and battled back by claiming that you can only call them fries if they are the really thin kind like you get at McDonald’s. At the mention of McDonald’s, my youngest chirped up asking when we can go to ‘Old MACdonald’s’ which is what he calls it, and then proceeded to tell us all about his trip to Portsmouth with his father where, clearly, the highlight of the day had been eating a McDonald’s (although it was actually a Burger King).
Anyways, I had to calm everyone down and explain that chips here in England are indeed the hot ones and crisps is the British word for potato chips (don’t get me started) and both are correct but that because we live in England, it might be best for them to say chips for the hot ones so we are understood correctly. Especially out in public if you want to get your food order right. Anna Grace was perturbed. And so she should be. I’ve completely confused her and got her into the habit of calling crisps chips for the past 11 years of her life. I’m sure her friends call them crisps and the hot ones chips but I didn’t realize just how much of an impact my use of American terms had on her, on all of my children. Plus, how can I say it’s better to use the British terms when I myself don’t use them? Sam gets pretty steamed up when I don’t use the correct British terms, especially when he has friends over. It must be mortifying to have a ‘weird’ mother who doesn’t speak correctly! Oddly enough though, he calls cookies cookies and has no issue with the fact that I don’t nor ever will call cookies biscuits. He seems to be fine with that one. Not long ago, my youngest gave me a lecture on the correct meaning of pants and trousers in a very matter of fact, but adamant, way.
So it seems I’ve done an excellent job of messing them up. Guess I won’t make mother of the year!
Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.