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Chips, Please January 26, 2007

Posted by Edwin in English, Humour.

“What would you like to go with the steak, Sir?” asked the waiter.

“Chips, please”, I replied.

It was a couple of years ago, when I and some colleagues got sent down to the U.S. for a project. There we were in a restaurant in an old town in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the New York state.

I was too occupied chatting with my colleagues that I responded to the waiter using my reflex. The waiter (probably a new hire) then opened up a package of ‘chips’ to accompany my steak. It happened right in front of my own eyes!

This, of course, wouldn’t have happened during my 8 years in U.K., where I would occasionally order ‘fish & chips’ for takeaway takeout. We called those slices of pre-packaged fried potatoes ‘crisps’.

The pre-packaged fried potatoes are called ‘chips’ here in North America. The ‘home-style’ potato chips are called ‘fries’ or ‘french fries’ here. I learned this fairly quickly after moving to Toronto, and had been cautious enough not to mix them up until that day, when it just caught me by surprise.

As you may have heard a while ago, some people from the US even wanted to rename ‘french fries’ to something else.



1. Geoffrey Barto - January 26, 2007

Note that in the US, a potato crisp is a potato chip made with potato buds (little bits of potato) pressed together, usually into some shape or another, like Pringles. A potato chip is made by frying an actual slice of potato. The distinction between the two is made by our food regulation agencies and enforced on the packaging. In practice, people think of chips and crisps as the same thing: potato chips. Fries, of course, are fries. Really thick fries are sometimes called potato wedges.

2. edwinlaw - January 27, 2007

Geoff, thanks for the interesting information.

I have this impression that ‘crisp’ could be a technical term that is not often used here in North America. The reason is that I myself have not heard people using it during my 11 years in Toronto.

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