This morning we had bacon butties for breakfast.
The first time I ate a bacon buttie was when I was a student in Durham in the 1960s, and someone offered me one. I’d never heard of a “bacon boetie” before, which what I thought I’d heard her say. I later found that it was spelt “butty” or “buttie”. Some people apparently pronounce it differently, but I pronounce it the way I first heard it, in north-east England. How do you pronounce it?
But bacon butties made pleasant eating, and we’ve had them in our family ever since.
A couple of years later I was in Namibia, and there was a similar food item, but with salami instead of bacon. It was a called a Brötchen, a salami Brötchen. So that’s what I called it. So you have bacon butties and salami Brötchens. You don’t have salami butties and bacon Brötchens.
In a recent discussion on English usage the names for food came under discussion, and it was interesting to see how much variation there is. I had learnt two local names for similar kinds of food, but in two places very far apart.
What surpriswed me in the discussion was that Americans would regard both of them as a “sandwich”. And this revealed an interesting difference in what kinds of food are regarded as a sandwich in different parts of the world.
In the USA, apparently, anything between two pieces of bread, regardless of the shape, size or consistency of the bread is a “sandwich”. A hamburger is a “sandwich”. A hot dog is a “sandwich”. In my dialect, I would never dream of calling a hamburger or a hot dog a “sandwich”. A sandwich is always made with two slices of bread cut off a loaf, and evenly cut on both sides.
A buttie is not a sandwich, though you can make a buttie from a flat slice of bread, as well as with a roll (as in the illustration above). But if you make a buttie out of a slice of bread, you use one slice of bread, butter it, put bacon, or chips, or whatever on it, and fold it over. That’s a buttie, not a sandwich. A sandwich is made of two slices of bread.
If I go to a cafe and ask for a tomato sandwich, nothing more needs to be specified, except that they might ask “brown bread or white”.
But in America, “sandwich” is far too wide a term. They might ask whether you want a sub, hoagie, po’boy or hero (whatever they may be). Actually I did once see a “hero” advertised at Steers in Auckland Park. I ordered one just to see what it was, and it turned out to be a very ordinary steak roll. You didn’t need a heroic appetite to consume it. It tasted pleasant, but heroic it was not. Nor was it, in my dialect, any kind of sandwich. It was a steak roll.
So if you’re travelling far from home and are hungry, and feel like eating a sandwich, make sure the local meaning of “sandwich” is the same as yours, or you may get something you don’t expect.