This morning in advisory, we made pancakes to celebrate the end of February—the shortest month of the year, the longest month of the year. Definitely a calendrical paradox. The pancakes were warm, filled with chocolate chips, covered with bountiful maple syrup. The group devoured them. We shared stories and hot cider that had been brewing for two hours in a crock pot with sliced oranges and cinnamon sticks. We commented on the fact that just the sound of “March” would help to lift our spirits above the inevitable cold and snow yet to come (we are supposed to get 10 more inches this Sunday).
“I love pancakes. In fact, sometimes we even have pancakes for supper,” I shared.
“Yea, supper. They’re great any time of day.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I have never heard that word before. I think I know what it means.”
“It sounds like a word from a long time ago, ” JD chimed in.
It turns out that eight of my advisees had never heard the word “supper” before. The other six knew what it meant but had never used it. In fact, no one in their families used it. I was shocked. It’s such a common word to me. Had it gone out of favor? Had it really become an archaic term?
After class I went to colleagues who suggested that the word supper was regional and in fact directed me to a dialect quiz online sponsored by the New York Times (which is actually quite revealing) and that one of the questions on the quiz asked about the difference between supper and dinner.This quiz said the three cities that most closely matched my dialect were: Rockford IL, Aurora IL, and Toledo Ohio (my actual birth place).
The word supper comes from the old french word soper, which is related to soup and usually referred to the meal in the evening after the main meal of the day at noon— dinner.
The whole way home I thought about this. We always had “supper” growing up, but when we went out to eat, we went out for “dinner.” We had “supper” at home but “dinner” when we went to grandma’s. Supper was more informal, in the kitchen, squished around the table that required a specific order of seating for us to all get around. I was the first one in and would have been the last one out had I not figured out an exit by going under the table. Dinner was fancier, maybe in the dining room, often with other people, the nicer dishes, the nicer silverware, maybe even in our nicer clothes and definitely with more intentional manners.
As our culture becomes more and more global, it’s somehow comforting to know that such verbal regionalism still remains. And the picture at the top? Well, it may look like tonight’s dinner, but it’s really just our supper.