English muffins = glazed buns

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Thu Jan 11 11:24:45 UTC 2001

Like JW McKeogh, I found it a bit odd that glazed buns and English muffins
had been equated.  A glazed bun is a sweet thing--buns are sweet in UK
English--except for hamburger buns, which are a relatively recent borrowing
from US.  US has this sense of 'bun' in 'hot crossed bun' or possibly
'cinnamon bun'--but I think you hear 'cinnamon roll' more there now.  (I
have my students do semantic field analyses of breads and cakes, so I've
had a lot of discussion on this in UK and South Africa.)

As JWK notes, a UK muffin is comparable to the US 'English muffin'.  Here's
the New Oxford's definition:

[chiefly Brit] a flat circular spongy bread roll make from yeast dough and
eaten split, toasted, and buttered.

They also have a 'chiefly N Amer' definition that describes 'a small domed
spongy cake...'.  My students, when asked to define 'muffin' give both
definitions but note that the American sense has only come into UK English
in recent years, with the importation of American muffins (the recipes at
least, if not the actual baked goods).  You can now buy packaged blueberry
and other muffins at coffee stands and supermarkets.

Since Wal-Mart now owns one of the major supermarket chains here, we may
see more importing of American food-concepts.


--On Thursday, January 11, 2001 3:39 am -0500 Jeffrey William McKeough
<jwm at URSOLARIS.SPDCC.COM> wrote:

> Rudolph C Troike quotes Ed White:
>> This reminds me of a similar conversation I had in England, at a
>> pastry shop.  I asked what certain familiar looking items were
>> called, to be informed that they were "glazed buns."  "Interesting,"
>> I replied; in the US we call them "English muffins." "Really," came
>> the cool reply, "How odd.  Since they REALLY ARE glazed buns."  --Ed
>> White
> I ran this by an English friend, who said that what we call "English
> muffins" in America are just called "muffins" in England.  (And in a
> nice bit of symmetry, what we call "muffins" she says are called
> "American muffins".)
> Her take was that the person in the pastry shop knew that "English
> muffins" were muffins, and that the pastry in question REALLY WAS a
> glazed bun, which is not a muffin, English or American.
> --
> Jeffrey William McKeough
> jwm at spdcc.com (or spdcc.net)

M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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