Pudding or dessert?

CarolSueC

Senior Member
USA--English
I'm aware that speakers of British English use "pudding" where American English speakers use dessert. I'm assuming that "dessert" is still used in BE, but when would it be used rather than "pudding."
 
  • Topsie

    Senior Member
    English-UK
    I agree with Polixenes. "Pudding" sounds more home-made (or traditional) whereas "dessert" is posh or elaborate. A bit like "supper" versus "dinner"!
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    If I am not mistaken (which I may be, since I am an AE speaker who refers to the course as dessert, and pudding as a type of dish that might appear at that course), in the elaborate scheme of Victorian meals a "pudding" was cooked (which is why Yorkshire Pudding is served with the "roast" course), while "dessert" was typically fruit served at the end of the meal. At dinner with the Duke of Omnium and Gatherum, the guests would probably be served a pudding and a dessert.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    In my case, we would have said "pudding" at home and "dessert" in a restaurant (or other formal situation).
    You will also find that course called "sweets"

    Starters, Main Course, Sweets is a very common trio on UK menus.

    Other places will offer Entrée, Main Course, Dessert.

    The same courses in US would be Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert.

    Note: Entrée in AE = Main Course in BE
     

    pepperfire

    Senior Member
    Canada - English & French
    They are not interchangeable in AE or CaE. A pudding is a dessert, but a dessert is not necessarily a pudding.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It might be better to say that a pudding may be, and is usually, a dessert. Yorkshire Pudding, of course, is never a dessert, and Indian Pudding (or Hasty Pudding) may be served with the main course of a meal. On the other hand, chocoalte pudding, or butterscotch pudding, would look very out of place being served with the roast beef and the string beans...
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    It's also a class thing. Descending through the various social classes from the top, the same course may be called 1. pudding (the U-word), 2. dessert, 3. sweet, 4. afters, 5, a'ers, the idioglossic boundaries being ill-defined.
     
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    Polixenes

    Member
    English - English
    You will also find that course called "sweets"

    Starters, Main Course, Sweets is a very common trio on UK menus.

    Note: Entrée in AE = Main Course in BE
    Yes, now that you mention it, I recall "Sweet" being another name for the dessert course, but I always heard it pronounced in the singular. Also, my vague recollection is that "Sweet" was used by the school dinner-ladies, and I don't think I ever heard the expression outside school. It was a long time ago though!
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    A dinner-lady (working class in authority) would be of the appropriate class to use the term sweet. It is alright to say sweets a) if you are talking about more than one option for this course or more than one plateful of the same thing, and b) there is no possible confusion with the generic term "sweets" used for what is known as candy in the USA.
     
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    Topsie

    Senior Member
    English-UK
    It's also a class thing. Descending through the various social classes from the top, the same course made be called 1. pudding (the U-word), 2. dessert, 3. sweet, 4. afters, 5, a'ers, the idioglossic boundaries being ill-defined.
    Arrius has hit the nail on the head! It's all about U and non-U!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U_and_non-U_English
    (which probably leaves our friends from across the pond somewhat flummoxed!)
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    It's also a class thing. Descending through the various social classes from the top, the same course made be called 1. pudding (the U-word), 2. dessert, 3. sweet, 4. afters, 5, a'ers, the idioglossic boundaries being ill-defined.
    I don't really follow this order. I would say "dessert" is more upper-class than "pudding" but you seem to have put "pudding" at the top of the social scale.

    I agree with those who said they'd use pudding at home and dessert in a restaurant or more formal setting (although one may order a type of pudding for dessert).

    I've no idea where to place terms like "sweet" or "afters" but I think they're considerably less commonly used than pudding/dessert. Having said that, perhaps "sweet" does appear on many restaurant menus.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't really follow this order
    I think Arrius' order is the classical one, liliput. Wiki suggests that
    According to Debrett's, pudding is the proper term, dessert is only to be used if the course consists of fruit, and sweet is colloquial.
    I have no way of checking whether this is true...

    That said, many decidedly non-upper-class types grew up saying "pudding" at home: I for one certainly did :D
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I don't believe I heard any term other than "pudding" at home, or with "school dinners" as a child-before and during the war. When I was somewhat older, and taken to eat out, "dessert" entered my vocabulary. I must admit today I ask for "afters".
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I understand that pudding is the appropriate term at the top of the social ladder and at the bottom.
    In between is where dessert and sweet appear. If I may quote Jilly Cooper:
    Everything from lemon water ice to jam roly-poly pudding, Caroline would call ‘pudding’. She would never say ‘sweet’ or ‘dessert’.
    You may also find pudding referred to as "the sweet course", where sweet is quite definitely an adjective. Hence, I suspect, the use of sweet to mean pudding - which for some reason seems to have fallen out of favour in the middle of the social spectrum.
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    You guys make CLASS distinctions by your terminology for "dessert"... that really is stuck up. ;)

    I think I must take exception to that; age distinctions probably, but "stuck up", I really do object to that. Perhaps if I were to write "you guys, you could say such a thing! Off topic I know.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Don't get so upset. I was merely reporting what my experience has taught me, and none of us Brits is responsable for the British class system or what is left of it today. I personally say dessert, though my parents said afters and if I ever say pudding it is for something sticky and farinaceous like spotted dick - a real pudding. To say pudding as the standard word for this course I would feel to be affectation on my part. Btw, your link was blank.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    As others have, I grew up with "What's for pudding?" and dessert was the restaurant description. I had always presumed that the word "sweet" was an import from French "suite" which followed the main course. This thread has shown me how all these terms are inhomogeneous at best, and all over the place, at worst. (Like the confusion over entree, which sometimes mean the "entry" to the repast, and sometimes means the 'middle" of the repast. Reminds me of the variation in desserts different folks call crumble, cobbler and crisp!
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    It's also a class thing. Descending through the various social classes from the top, the same course may be called 1. pudding (the U-word), 2. dessert, 3. sweet, 4. afters, 5, a'ers, the idioglossic boundaries being ill-defined.
    I seem to recall that 'pudding', as well as being at the top (what the Queen would say), re-enters the social order somewhere between 3 & 4.
     

    CarolSueC

    Senior Member
    USA--English
    Thank you to everyone who weighed in on this topic. It turned out to be more complex than I imagined. I did check out the link to the Wiki article on U and non-U and, as a native New Englander, was surprised to find it referred to northeastern U.S. as well as to 1950's Britain.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    As others have, I grew up with "What's for pudding?" and dessert was the restaurant description. I had always presumed that the word "sweet" was an import from French "suite" which followed the main course. This thread has shown me how all these terms are inhomogeneous at best, and all over the place, at worst. (Like the confusion over entree, which sometimes mean the "entry" to the repast, and sometimes means the 'middle" of the repast. Reminds me of the variation in desserts different folks call crumble, cobbler and crisp!
    I had almost forgotten the use of 'sweet' in this connection and to be honest I can't remember where it was used. At home the last course was always known as 'pudding'. 'Afters' crept in and out of my vocabulary at some point. I have only ever seen 'entrée' in what I would refer to as 'pretentious' menus, 'Main Course' being my preferred nomenclature.
     

    not1ofthemidswap

    New Member
    English - US
    As US person living in Britain my children are always asking why terms differ and this was one that came up the other day. After a bit of research I think that while both terms are in use in the UK local area determines "proper" usage. Puddings seems to be more widespread in less metropolitan areas probably due to less influence from other sources. In general it seems to be a British "lack of enthusiasm" towards using any French terms as well. Starter instead of appetizer, main instead of entree and pudding instead of dessert. All three appear to be of French origin.
     

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    in the elaborate scheme of Victorian meals a "pudding" was cooked (which is why Yorkshire Pudding is served with the "roast" course), while "dessert" was typically fruit served at the end of the meal.
    Just to confuse matters even more - my grandmother (who was from Yorkshire) used to serve us Yorkshire Puddings with Jam as a dessert/sweet/pudding/afters at the end of the meal! I would always use the term "pudding" but in no way am I posh - maybe it's the accent but it doesn't sound upper class rolling off my Midland's tongue!
     
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    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    I reckon you lot must be dead posh - we only had dinner and pudding (or sometimes afters) on a Sunday, and didn't ever have something beforehand - as my mum would have said it'd spoil our appetites!

    In the evening we had our tea (not dinner), which was usually something with potatoes on the plate - honest-to-goodness Irish heritage an' all that - followed by bread and butter with, if we were lucky, a spread of jam on it or even a sprinkle of sugar. The children drank milk, the adults drank tea. Heaven. We didn't call the bread after the savoury course "pudding" or "afters", it's was just "bread", and the first thing we ate was just "tea" (not "dinner" or "main course" or "entree" or any other posh word).
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    I just learned today that many British persons, especially the upper class, call the dessert course 'pudding', irrespective of actual items. Examples (which some quite strange to the AE ear):

    ‘We are only just ordering pudding (lemon meringue for him, fruit cup for me) when Lloyd Webber, who must have eaten very quickly, comes over to say hello.’

    ‘And we did have a bag of jelly babies for pudding.’

    ['pudding' as the dessert course of a meal, Oxford online examples]


    I note that the American 'not1of them', above #24, says it's because the British people prefer to avoid French=derived terms like 'entree' and 'dessert'. Is this a plausible explanation?

    As US person living in Britain my children are always asking why terms differ and this was one that came up the other day. After a bit of research I think that while both terms are in use in the UK local area determines "proper" usage. Puddings seems to be more widespread in less metropolitan areas probably due to less influence from other sources. In general it seems to be a British "lack of enthusiasm" towards using any French terms as well. Starter instead of appetizer, main instead of entree and pudding instead of dessert. All three appear to be of French origin.
    I realize many opinions have been canvassed above (9 years back!), but do BE speakers now agree that it's an upper-class custom to speak of 'pudding' as in my example sentences?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm by no means upper class, but I say 'pudding'. I can just about tolerate 'dessert', but 'sweet' sends me into a rage.

    It probably has got something to do with some French words sounding horribly affected. To me at least.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am not 'upper-class', and I talk about 'pudding' or 'pud' because my family, working class, and educated professional middle class always have talked about 'pudding'. If I'm talking about menus I probably would use 'desserts' because that's what restaurants call them, just as they use 'entrees'. A lot of cuisine and food related vocabulary is French and there just isn't an English word.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    I'm middle class and was brought up to understand that 'pudding' was the dessert course, irrespective of whether it was ice-cream or spotted dick and custard.

    Moving up the social orders, we have 'dessert' and 'sweet', until we finally reach the upper echelons where they also say 'pudding' (which is what the Queen calls it.)

    Famously in 1954 Prof Alan S.C. Ross made a definitive list of U (upper-class) terms and their non-U equivalents, (quoted by Nancy Mitford in her book Noblesse Oblige) which most people now agree is a bit of a joke,

    for example:
    non-U: mirror, U: looking-glass
    non-U: notepaper, U: writing paper
    non-U: toilet, U: lavatory
    non-U: settee, U: sofa
    non-U: serviette, U: napkin
    and of course:
    non-U: sweet, U: pudding
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I'm middle-class and I think I say afters ... or pudding ... or pud ... or all these ...
    The only thing I'm sure of is that I wouldn't dream of saying dessert. Or sweet.
     
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    bennymix

    Senior Member
    Reminds me of Monty Python's satirical depiction of the French as effete, dandified, snobs. Americans object to ostentatious French such as
    "The pie has that je ne sais quois" but not to "Would you like dessert?"

    I wonder if you folks avoid saying that you're making entries in your journal or diary, but rather say 'I put stuff in the day book'? :)
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Reminds me of Monty Python's depiction of the French as effete, dandified, snobs. Americans object to ostentatious French such as
    "The pie has that je ne sais quois" but not to "Would you like dessert?"

    I wonder if you folks avoid saying that you're making entries in your journal or diary, but rather say 'I put stuff in the day book'? :)
    Why would we?:confused:

    (You are aware, I take it, that "stuff" came into English via French?)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Main course" is reasonably common in AE and CanE.
    I've never heard entree used in a home situation. Only in restaurants. At home you would call it a main course, main dish, or most likely, nothing at all.

    - What are we having for dinner?
    - Roast beef.

    In my house, we didn't have courses anyway. We ate it all at the same time on one plate. Yes, there might be a salad on the side but that wasn't a separate course. We didn't usually have dessert, but when we did it was just "dessert" ("Do you want some dessert?"). It wasn't considered a course in a multi-course meal.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    My very general take on 'pudding' vs 'dessert' is that 'pudding' refers to English recipes and 'dessert' refers to imported recipes, mainly French but including icecream. It's beyond me why 'pudding' should be considered affected while 'dessert' is acceptable.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    I suppose it's a bit like calling the toilet the 'bathroom' when there's no bath. The lower classes may have called it 'pudding' because they expected it would comprise dumplings or spotted dick. But you might have expected royalty to know better than to use the term to refer to creme-brulee or panacotta.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    But you might have expected royalty to know better than to use the term to refer to creme-brulee or panacotta.
    Isn't It often the case that upper-class and working class usage is similar, with the aspirational middle-class being the odd one out?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Isn't It often the case that upper-class and working class usage is similar, with the aspirational middle-class being the odd one out?
    :thumbsup:
    That's my recollection, also - even though it's getting on a bit now (scone comes to mind as another example: rhyming with don or tone).
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    But they weren't talking about the stone....
    That would be a first for me to hear scoon (although some are rather monolithic :))
    Those who rhyme it with gone predominate in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. Those who rhyme with cone dominate in southern Ireland and the Midlands. The rest of the country is a mixture of the two pronunciations. And, just to complicate the matter, there is a third pronunciation available for the word – in the form of the village of Scone in Scotland, which is pronounced “skoon”
    Source
     
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