I’ve called it soda my whole life, but ask the internet, and it’ll tell you I’m living in the wrong region. As a Midwesterner, I’m “supposed” to be referring to carbonated soft drinks as pop. Little did I know that outside my little corner of Chicago, there’s a whole world of other regional food terms that reveal where you’re really from.
Here are just a few examples of words that you didn’t know had alternative names in other parts of the globe.
Here in the US, we use the word “candy” as a catch-all term for every kind of sweet or confectionary: Anything from a Hershey’s chocolate bar to a bag of rainbow Skittles would fall under the candy umbrella (sounds delicious). In Australia, though, a similar term exists: lollies.
For non-Aussie English speakers, “lolly” probably sounds like it strictly refers to lollipops, lickable sweets on a stick. The history behind why Australians use the word lolly when referring to candy is a bit unclear. Some scholars say that it refers to the the sound your mouth makes when licking a sweet treat; the full word “lollipop” came later. Others say the term “lolly” derives from British slang and is a result of actual lollipops being made in 17th-century England.
Whichever origin you trust, remember that if you do travel to the land down under, there are a lot more candies available than just the ones on sticks.
The light, airy strings of spun sugar that we know in the states as cotton candy go by “candy floss” or “fairy floss” in many other countries, including England. Whether it’s floss or cotton, both terms pretty aptly describe what this treat looks and feels like. Which term is the “right” one?
Historically speaking, we in the United States actually have it wrong. National Geographic explains that cotton candy was originally invented by dentist William Morrison and a confectioner named John C. Wharton. The two introduced the treat as “fairy floss” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the name “cotton candy” popped up, in order to market a similar product from another candy-selling dentist (another one?) named Josef Lascaux. Unfortunately, only the name caught on, and not Lascaux’s attempt to create a better cotton-candy-making machine than the one Morrison and Wharton used.
Either way, this spun sugar is sweet and melts in your mouth the same way no matter what country or region you find yourself in.
What I have always known to be a bell pepper (a descriptive name, I’d say) is better known by its scientific name, capsicum, in India, Australia, and New Zealand, notes Insider.
The scientific name “capsicum” refers to “tropical American herbs and shrubs of the nightshade family widely cultivated for their many-seeded usually fleshy-walled berries,” per Merriam-Webster. Bell pepper doesn’t sound nearly as official, does it? There’s something very official (not to mention fun to say) about capsicum. It’s natural to prefer the vocabulary you’re used to, but in this case, I just might have to make the switch.