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Old November 03, 2009, 02:48 PM
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pjt33 pjt33 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Valencia, España
Posts: 2,571
Native Language: Inglés (en-gb)
pjt33 is on a distinguished road
I can't do better than to quote a quite excellent book of social anthropology:
Originally Posted by Watching the English by Kate Fox
Dinner/Tea/Supper rules

What do you call your evening meal? And at what time do you eat it?
  • If you call it 'tea' and eat it at around half past six, you are almost certainly working class or of working-class origin. (If you have a tendency to personalise the meal, calling it 'my tea', 'our/us tea' and 'your tea' - as in 'I must be going home for my tea', 'What's for us tea, love?' or 'Come back to mine for your tea' - you are probably northern working class.)
  • If you call the evening meal 'dinner', and eat it at around seven o'clock, you are probably lower-middle or middle-middle.
  • If you normally only use the term 'dinner' for rather more formal evening meals, and call your informal, family evening meal 'supper' (pronounced 'suppah'), you are probably upper-middle or upper class. The timing of these meals tends to be more flexible, but a family 'supper' is generally eaten at around half-past seven, while a 'dinner' would usually be later, from half past eight onwards.
To everyone but the working classes, 'tea' is a light meal taken at around four o'clock in the afternoon, and consists of tea (the drink) with cakes, scones, jam, biscuits and perhaps little sandwiches - traditionally including cucumber sandwiches - with the crusts cut off. The working classes call this 'afternoon tea', to distinguish it from the evening 'tea' that the rest call supper or dinner.

Lunch/Dinner rules

The timing of lunch is not a class indicator, as almost everyone has lunch at around one o'clock. The only class indicator is what you call this meal: if you call it 'dinner', you are working class; everyone else, from the lower-middles upwards, calls it 'lunch'. People who say 'd'lunch' - which Jilly Cooper notes has a slightly West Indian sound to it - are trying to conceal their working-class origins, remembering at the last second not to call it 'dinner'. (They may also say 't'dinner' - which confusingly sounds a bit Yorkshire - for the evening meal, just stopping themselves from calling it 'tea'.) Whatever their class, and whatever they may call it, the English do not take the middle-of-the-day meal at all seriously: most make do with a sandwich or some other quick, easy, single-dish meal.
I'll stop there.
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