salt vs salty

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Uncle Bob

Senior Member
British English
Hello,
Today at lunch I was asked if I needed salt in my soup. On answering "No thanks, it's salt enough" I was asked why I didn't say "salty enough". I had/have no idea of whether there is a difference and, if so, what it is.
Any suggestions?
PS There is a thread on "saltish" v "salty" but it doesn't include an answer to my question.
 
  • Gwan

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    For me, the difference is I would only ever say 'salty' :)
    I can only see 'salt enough' working in a sentence like "No need to push, there's salt enough for everyone!" (Granted, the occasions for actually saying that sentence are somewhat few and far between.)
     

    MIKE38

    Senior Member
    French/France
    Salt is a noun and an adjective, so for me it is grammatically correct and I am very interested in what native English speakers will say!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Intriguing question, Uncle Bob!

    The OED has six non-obsolete meanings for "salt" as an adjective, as follows:

    ~ Impregnated with or containing salt; hence, having a taste like that of salt; saline.
    ~ Treated with salt as a preservative; cured, preserved, or seasoned with salt; salted.
    ~ Of plants: Growing in the sea or on salt marshes.
    ~ Of speech, wit, etc.: Pungent, stinging. Now rare.
    ~ slang. and dial. Of expense, cost: Excessive in amount; costly, dear.
    ~ slang. Of high rank or great wealth.



    I'm pretty sure I use salt as an adjective only in terms like "salt flat"*, though I'd recognise it of course in expressions like "the salt sea" or "salt tears".

    I wonder if it's a regional thing?

    _________
    *The OED says it's an adjective here - I'd have thought it was a noun:D

     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I wonder if it's a regional thing?
    I've just found an entry for "it's not salt (enough)" in this dialect dictionary. Annoyingly, the on-line version doesn't have the key for the [old] county abbreviations, but it looks as though it is - or was - fairly widespread: the counties listed appear to include Norfolk, Northumberland, Middlesex, Berkshire, Somerset, Dorset....
     

    MIKE38

    Senior Member
    French/France
    I have just checked and I noticed that you also say "salted eggs"
    So what about Uncle Bob's soup? Enough salted?;)
     

    LauraK

    Senior Member
    American English
    You always use "salty" when talking about food. It's too salty, not salty enough, etc. For these purposes "salt" is only used as a noun.

    Edit: Oops! I confused your country and language---thought you were a native Hungarian speaker in Britain. Didn't mean to be condescending/pedantic. :p I had no idea Brits used salt as an adjective like that.

    "Salted" with the eggs is a past participle: It just means that they have been salted before serving. I've just remembered that "salt cod" is one instance of a name of a food using "salt" as an adjective.
     
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My home dictionary (the Collins Dictionary of the English Language) has "salt" as a noun and an adjective. For the adjective it says not sour, sweet or bitter; salty. I don't think I would say "My soup is salt enough", but I can't be sure.
     

    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    ... but it looks as though it is - or was - fairly widespread: the counties listed appear to include Norfolk, Northumberland, Middlesex, Berkshire, Somerset, Dorset....
    Perhaps "was" is the pertinent word here:). As for dialects, I don't think any of these have greatly influenced me. My English derives from Londonese, Yorkshire and posh.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think the counterpart of fresh water is salt water, not salty water. Would that be an adjective use of the word? Then "salt water" becomes an adjective itself, as in salt water fish? Uncle Bob's usage doesn't seem odd to me although I would have said salty myself.
     

    ajparis

    Senior Member
    American English
    As JulianStuart says, "salt" is an adjective only to distinguish "salt water" from "fresh water". Otherwise it's "salty." There is also the past participle "salted" as in "salted peanuts." ("Salt cod" is just an exception; strictly you should say "salted cod." Similarly, we now say "ice tea" instead of "iced tea.")

    BUT... a soup should not taste "salty", should it? You could say, "My french fries are nice and salty, because that's the nature of french fries. But if you say a soup is "salty" that would already imply there is too much salt. So better to simply say "No thanks, it's already salted enough;" or "there's already enough salt in it..."


    The moral of the story is not to trust your dictionary too much!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The moral of the story is not to trust your dictionary too much!
    But Uncle Bob isn't trusting his dictionary - he's a native English speaker!:D

    And it does seem that this use of "[not] salt enough" either is or has been pretty common, even if no-one responding to this thread uses it....:cool:
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    "Tasting of salt" = "salty," not "salt." "Salty" can be modified by adverbs: The food is sufficiently salty, too salty, not salty enough, etc. I don't think "salt," when used to describe water, mud flats, preserved meats and fish, etc., can be modified that way; it's an absolute. Although the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean both contain salt water, you have to say that the Mediterranean is less salty, not less salt. "The salt beef is saltier than the salt pork."
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    We may be in the realm of AE/BE differences here, I feel.
    I'm not sure about that...:). Here are a couple of google-examples of "salt enough" from late nineteenth-century [sorry, Bob!] cookbooks - the first one is definitely American, and I'm fairly certain the second one is too:

    National Cookery Book - Page 117
    Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, Centennial Committees Women's Centennial Committees - 2005 - 375 pages - Full view
    Taste it to see if it is salt enough. Stir it well and turn it out into a stone pot. When it is cold, it will be jellied and firm. ...

    How to Cook Well - Page 17

    J Rosalie Benton - 2008 - 428 pages - Full view
    Then stir in one cup more of meal (dry). From time to time, throw in a little more meal, taking care that it does not get too thick. Taste it, to be sure that it is salt enough, and stir often to prevent burning. ...
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    The quoted dates are early 21st century, but if those are publication dates for compilations of 19th-century recipes, then I think usage has shifted. If I were writing those recipes, I would certainly say "salty," not "salt." Before I read this thread, it had never occurred to me that one could drop the "y" from "salty" in referring to food or any other references to taste. I was familiar with phrases like "salt beef," "salt water" and "salt flat," although I would have thought that in those cases "salt" was a noun being used as an attributive, not an adjective. "Salt" beef and fish are describe products of the pre-industrial era, originated long before the 19th century, and have been continued as historical terms. If the processes that produced them were just being developed now, I think we would refer to "salted beef" or "salted fish," not "salt ~."
     

    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you all.
    It seems as if I have the choice between BE quaintness and marital harmony (my wife was of the majority view).
     
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