What do you think of when you hear the word “lolly”? The answer will very much depend on whether you live in the UK, the US or Australia. Believe it or not, this word has a different meaning in each of these countries. And what about sweets, candies and biscuits?
In this blog, we take a closer look at the meaning of these words for sweet treats and discover that they vary massively from country to country.
This discussion all started on a Wednesday Q&A session on the LEaF Facebook page. The question was posed whether it is acceptable to write “candy” as a translation for “Süßigkeiten”. As a Brit, the word “candy” sounds super American to me. I know what it means but I would never write it. In Britain, the correct translation is “sweets”. This then led onto a discussion about lollies.
In Britain, a lolly is essentially a sweet (or candy in the US) on a stick. It is short for lollipop.
Now that all seems fairly straight-forward, until we learn that lolly is actually the Australian word for sweets – i.e. British lollies but without the sticks. In other words, the correct translation for “Süßigkeiten” in Australia is “lollies”.
So, the correct English translation of Süßigkeiten is sweets, candies and lollies, depending on whether you are in Britain, the US or Australia respectively. In other words, it is a bit of a minefield!
Biscuits are originally an Italian concept. The word stems from the Italian “biscotti” – a Latin word meaning “baked twice”. Originally, biscuits were just like Italian biscotti: double-baked so they didn’t go off. This double-baking process leads to rock-hard biscuits. Not great for the teeth, but perfect for dipping into a hot drink.
Nowadays, biscuits in Britain tend to be of the softer variety. There are custard creams, bourbons, jammie dodgers, digestives, hob nobs, to name but a few. They tend to be fairly dry and crumbly and are predominantly intended for eating alongside a cup of tea.
But what about America? Biscuit has a whole different meaning across the Atlantic. A British biscuit is known as a cookie in the USA (whereas a cookie in Britain is a larger, softer biscuit). In America, a biscuit is actually more like a savoury scone. Large, fairly dry and served as a Breakfast dish with a white, lump sausage gravy.
Note to self: never accidentally order a biscuit to go with your cup of tea in America!
So, there you have it. Although the English language is always referred to as English, the meaning of the words can differ massively from country to country. This is especially true in the world of confectionary.
Those of you with a sweet tooth, beware!
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out some other Technical Translation posts, such as How much do translations cost?, The Ultimate Guide to Translating Idioms, The Native Speaker Principle and What do translators actually do?