Back to the shrimp/prawn debate

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 14 19:21:35 UTC 2009

A few months ago, ADS-L covered a variety of interpretations of the
shrimp/prawn distinction. Aside from the various attempts to distinguish
by size and/or species, if I recall correctly, there was also a
discussion of the US/UK dichotomy in terminology. Picking up a recent
BBC story I find one theory confirmed--the reference to a "prawn
cocktail", which would be virtually unthinkable in an American food
establishment. Yet, the distinction is immediately questioned as both
"prawn" and "shrimp" appear in the same sentence!

 >Stocks of northern shrimp, the essential ingredient in the ubiquitous
prawn cocktail, could be badly affected if ocean temperatures rise.
 >Researchers report, in the journal Science, that shrimp eggs hatch
within days of each spring phytoplankton bloom - the main food source
for the larvae. ...

Interestingly enough, there might be no mystery here--the reference to
"prawn cocktail" appears to be regional, but the use of "shrimp" might
be a part of bio-jargon, in particular, referring to the species of
northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis). There is, of course, another
possibility--the Science article was penned by Americans (or, at least,
directly influenced by the US members of the "international" research
team), while the BBC piece was written and edited by BBC's own. So the
BBC writers who read the article kept the original Science language,
while the top graf was added by an editor who didn't much care for the
original language and likely just assumed the term to be jargon (and
never read the source).

Still, I wanted to share this bit as a follow-up in earlier discussion.


The American Dialect Society -

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