[Ads-l] "Cold meat"

Ben Yagoda byagoda at UDEL.EDU
Fri Dec 13 01:26:19 UTC 2019

I could use some help in solving a dialectal mystery. My wife (born 1952 in Fall River MA) refers to sliced ham, turkey, etc. that you get from the deli counter as “cold meat,” where I (born in New York City roughly the same time) would say “cold cuts.” I have never heard “cold meat” anywhere else, and she always told me it was a regionalism. I consulted Dictionary of American Regional English and found nothing for "cold meat.” Recently, at my urging, she asked the Facebook group of her high school class if anyone else said “cold meat.” No one had heard of it. That led us to hypothesize that she had gotten it either from her mother (a native of Chicago) or her father (born in Italy and migrated to the U.S. at 19).

My next step was to pose the question on Twitter. The majority of people (including Masachusettsans and Chicagoans) had never encountered “cold meat.” There were three exceptions: one person each from Australia, central Pennsylvania, and Scotland.

That’s where matters stood until tonight, when I was watching episode 2 of the HBO series “Watchmen.” Characters are watching a movie, set in 1938, called “American Hero Story.” There is an exterior shot of a New York grocery store, the sign of which says: “GROCERIES*FRESH PRODUCE*COLD MEATS.” I put a screen shot on Twitter: https://twitter.com/byagoda/status/1205279178913931264

Any insight or knowledge about “cold meat”?

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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