[Ads-l] tiffin

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 31 16:10:10 EDT 2019

The OED and the Lexico (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/tiffin <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/tiffin>) say that “tiffin” is used as a modifier in compounds such as “tiffin carrier”. Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tiffin <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tiffin>) also has the compound “tiffin boxes” in citations. 

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tiffin <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tiffin>) says “tiffin” by itself can mean a “tiffin container”, and the BBC today has an article that talks about a restaurateur who switched from plastic to “tiffins”:

The takeaway owner fighting plastic waste with tiffins
https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-somerset-49515252/the-takeaway-owner-fighting-plastic-waste-with-tiffins <https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-somerset-49515252/the-takeaway-owner-fighting-plastic-waste-with-tiffins>

The tiffins displayed in the BBC video are metal containers that fit together with locking straps, the same sort of container shown at https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/248331366925162492 <https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/248331366925162492>. Google Images shows such locking sets of containers are common for “tiffin”. I don’t have a word for them; “locking dim sum containers” seems like a reasonable description. 

When referring to food, the OED and Lexico says a tiffin must be a snack or light meal, but according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiffin <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiffin>), that is not necessarily the case in “certain parts of India” where it does not have to be a light meal. According to Rahul Verma (https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/tea-tattle-and-toast-the-charm-of-an-indian-tiffin/article28794101.ece <https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/tea-tattle-and-toast-the-charm-of-an-indian-tiffin/article28794101.ece>), “… in some quarters, it is just another word for a meal.”

Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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