Separated By a Common (Pancake) Language

Many Christians recently celebrated Shrove Tuesday, a day of feasting before the official beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. In the UK in particular, Shrove Tuesday is informally known as Pancake Day, Pancakes use up many of the historically Lenten-forbidden, perishable items such as eggs, milk, and butter. (Although chickens presumably don’t stop laying, nor cows stop needing to be milk, so I’ve never quite understood that.) Regardless, even many people who don’t observe Lent like to indulge.

Image Credit: Calum Lewis

Regardless, it’s not flapjack day! While flapjacks and pancakes are interchangeable terms in the United States, in the UK, the flapjack is a biscuit made from oats and golden syrup. Here’s a recipe from The Great British Bake-Off, although there are also many online in non-metric units.

Image Source: The Great British Bake-Off

Of course, the different meanings of certain words is something that crops up quite a bit when reading our beloved Austen, such as the “condescension” showing by Lady Catherine to Mr. Collins (which lacked a sense of being demeaning or snide in Austen’s day, but rather had a sense of kindly deference to one’s inferiors). Sometimes, words that are archaic or foreign (like a phaeton or ha-ha) are less apt to be misunderstood than words that are commonly used but have a different contextual meaning. It’s one reason why, after enjoying a book as a story, it can be so much fun to nerd out with an annotated edition, or just to Google (using reputable sources) words or phrases that seem odd or perplexing.

Just don’t imply to Mrs. Bennet that one of her daughters cooked the pancakes (or flapjacks).

Regardless, happy pancaking to all, regardless of what you celebrate! I’m not an observant Christian, but I remember my grandmother used to love to indulge in her beloved McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish on Fridays this time of year. Any excuse for eating is a good one!

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