supper or dinner, what do you call that meal?

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Dec 11 20:31:32 UTC 2000

Sonja's husband's distinction is exactly the one I grew up with, in rural
southwestern Minnesota.  Sundays and holidays were no different; the big
(or festive) meal then might be an hour or two later than on weekdays
(i.e., 1-2 p.m.), but it was still dinner.  Supper was at night, and lunch
was served twice a day--9 a.m. and 3 p.m.--as a sandwich and coffee break
to sustain the farmers between the big meals!  Now that I'm an "urbanite,"
I've compromised in Sonja's manner too:  Lunch is at noon, and supper is at
night.  But my son, who's always been urban (well, in Bloomington and
Athens) always uses lunch and dinner.  Me: "Come for supper!"  Him: "What's
for dinner?"

At 02:54 PM 12/11/00 -0500, you wrote:
>That distinction of rural vs. urban might hold true in my situation
>since I grew up in Houston, Texas and my husband grew up in a small
>rural area in southeastern Minnesota. I believe both his parents grew
>up on farms and the community his family still lives in is surrounded
>by farms.  --SL
>>At 2:16 PM -0500 12/11/00, Sonja L. Lanehart wrote:
>>>My husband and I have had this discussion before. He is from
>>>Minnesota where apparently dinner is what you do at noon and supper
>>>is what you do at night. I come from Texas and lunch is what you do
>>>at noon and dinner is what you do at night. Now that we have a child,
>>>somehow I thought it better that we be on the same page so I use
>>>supper now as well for what you do at night though I still use lunch
>>>for what you do at noon since that's what they call it the schools
>>>he's attended here in Georgia and California.  --SL
>>Then there's the cross-cultural lesson that I received as an urban
>>child:  in rural areas, I was told, dinner--i.e. the main meal of the
>>day--is served at mid-day.  In urban and suburban areas, dinner--the
>>main meal--is served in the evening.  (The "other" post-noon meal is
>>then called supper and lunch respectively.)   The explanation had to
>>do with the idea that the farm workers come back to the house for the
>>mid-day meal which has to be big enough to keep them working until
>>sundown, while the city folks don't come home until the end of their
>>workday.  (That "dinner" really means 'main meal of the day' and is
>>not definitionally tied to time of consumption is borne out by the
>>fact that the Thanskgiving turkey or Christmas ham or roast may be
>>served in the early afternoon as the big holiday DINNER--it would
>>never be called 'lunch', since that would falsely entail that there's
>>a bigger meal coming later in the day.
>Sonja L. Lanehart
>Department of English      706-542-2260 (office)
>University of Georgia      706-542-1261 (messages)
>300 Park Hall              706-542-2181 (fax)
>Athens, GA 30605-6205      lanehart at

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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