French fries are not chips

It's commonly held that English "chips" are American "French fries", but I deny it. McDonald's-style fried potatoes are canonical French fries, but they are not canonical chips. Leftpondians don't eat chips very often, and perhaps think of them as "fat French fries" if they don't know any better, but the point is that the two terms refer to different things. Congress is the American Parliament, no doubt, but it would be absurd to say that the terms had the same referent!

Rightpondians often do claim that the fried potato products sold by McDonald's are "chips". Since they have only one term available, they will tend to use it for all fried potato products other than crisps ("potato chips" in American English), whether or not the potatoes are julienned (as in French fries proper) or sliced in large wedges or bars (as in chips proper). But taking a transatlantic perspective, the two terms are not really interchangeable, for they have different prototypes. This is not the case with "crisps" vs. "potato chips", which have only one prototype.

But when an American goes to a place (whether in America or elsewhere; in my case, about 600 meters away) where "chips" are served and openly called by that name, s/he will have quite a different gustatory experience from what results from eating "French fries".

To consider the flip side of the issue for the moment, if I went to England and saw an Erithecus rubecula, I would have to call it a "robin", because no other English term is available. That doesn't mean that I don't know it's a different bird from the specimens of Turdus migratorius that I commonly denote by that term.


Jim Ley said...

As a rightpondian, there is no way I would call wedge cut deep fried potatoes chips, they are wedges, chips are sliced in bars, nothing else. Rightpondians also generally use fries for McDonalds fried potato products.

John Cowan said...

Well, things change and we change with them. I'm glad to encourage clear diction, even if a little bit too late.

Arthaey said...

In Leftpondia, we have steak fries to describe wide fries, which sound like Rightpondian chips. There are also potato wedges, usually seasoned, which are distinct from steak fries.

Google image searches can give you a visual indication of the differences between steak fries and potato wedges.

jch said...

At home I usually cut potatoes into 2 cm slices, sometimes cutting them in half to make them more narrow. I keep the skin on and cook it in olive oil.

I am a leftponder.