5.05.2008

Dinner. What is it?

If words mean things, can they mean different things on different days?

Such as, can dinner mean lunch on sundays? If i go to a "carry-in dinner" at warren first baptist at noon, can i call that dinner? What then, is the next meal called?
If dinner happens at 6 o'clock on every other day, then can it happen at noon on Sunday?

Andrew Smith thinks it can.
Ridicule him.

Please weigh in.

7 comments:

BT said...

Andrew's right.

Here's some wiki-wisdom:
"Dinner is the main meal of the day, eaten at midday or in the evening. The meal normally consists of a combination of cooked, or sometimes uncooked, proteins (meat, fish or legumes), with vegetables, and/or starch products like rice, noodles, or potatoes.

The word "dinner" comes from the French word dîner, the "chief repast of the day", ultimately from the Latin disiunare, which means to break fast (as in the English word "breakfast")."

So, we see here that dinner could actually function for any meal that is considered the main meal.

That said, Annie does have a point with the question "what then shall we call the meal following dinner if it is taken at midday?" The answer? Supper.

Wiki that trash if you must...

annie.marie.dimond. said...

I think, however, dearest ben taylor, that you are both incorrect.

The english language is constantly evolving. Although the south and parts of the midwest are a bit slow to change their traditional usage of words that they are so entrenched in, words like dinner have come to mean something entirely different in the more...progressive...parts of the country.

Also, you failed to read the rest of your wiki:
In Australia and MOST PARTS OF THE UNITED STATES and Canada, dinner is the evening meal served around 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. In some regions, such as the southern or rural mid-western United States, the Atlantic provinces, parts of Saskatchewan, and Quebec, the evening repast is called supper (souper in Quebec), and dinner (dîner) refers to the noon repast, which itself would be called lunch in most parts of the United States and Canada. In the Southern United States, the main repast of the day is called Dinner, whether taken at noon or in the evening. On farms it was traditionally taken at noon. If Dinner, the main repast of the day, is at noon, the evening repast is called Supper. If Dinner, the main repast of the day, is in the evening the noon repast is called Lunch. Mainly in Australia, tea and dinner are synonyms.

I hope you realize that it draws atenttion to the majority of the united states (who is in tune with australia and the rest of the world) who deems dinner as an evening meal. Does the south enjoy being behind the times?

BT said...

Oh, Annie. In your haste you have made two relatively fallacious assertions. Andrew would have tried to explain these to you, but he has not the time what with all his new responsibilities in the pastorate. Thus, I shall attempt to explain to you your errors:

1. You are suggesting a quasi-deconstructionist approach to the evolution of modern English. You suggest that a shift is taking place in the meaning associated with particular words, and, by implication, that such changes should go unchecked. It is often difficult to ascribe linguistic authority to any given body, and thus the concept of authority here tends to be ambiguous; and yet, there are certain principles to which we must hold (call me a deontologist), namely that we should be quick to defend more established meanings and slow to change definitions based on erroneously identified regional variations. I will explain my view on linguistic authority shortly.

But truly, what you suggest borders on a brand of linguistic relativism with which I, for one, am uncomfortable (Kyle agrees by nodding and grinning).

Lest you accuse me of committing any number of fallacies in my own right (including an appeal to etymology or an appeal to tradition), let me say that I recognize the potentially volatile nature of a debate regarding language. Because language belongs chiefly to those who use it (this is a fairly pragmatic, but, I think, acceptable assertion), we must be careful to make rules about which words mean what, etc. on either side of this argument. However, I think that my second point will convince you that you are making a truly fallacious claim…

2. A wise man once said (and by wise man, I mean C. S. Lewis) that we must take great care to avoid the “uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited” (Surprised By Joy, p. 207-208). This quite well describes what Lewis denotes as “chronological snobbery.” It is related somewhat to the ad hominem argumental fallacy, with which I am sure you are familiar.

In other words, it is dangerous for you to critique Southern and/or Midwestern dialects as somehow inherently inferior to dialects which are perceived to be, if not anything else, more chronologically advanced. This is especially the case when these more “primitive” dialects offer a completely rational and etymologically sound lexical paradigm to account for ambiguity in words such as “dinner.” Namely, I speak here of the temporally based “breakfast-lunch-supper” paradigm, where the word “dinner” functions not chiefly as a chronological denotation, but rather superlatively or, perhaps more accurately, to simply indicate importance.

Ultimately, the chronological snobbery which you have displayed is not unforgivable; but it is important to address, especially for those of us hailing from territories you have mentioned. At this point, it moves beyond a question of meaning and becomes a question of honor.

This is not to say that this proposed option is dogmatically correct, rather the burden of proof lies simply is establishing the feasibility for Andrew’s original assertion, which I think I have adequately done.

I welcome your response…

annie.marie.dimond. said...

Ben,
Being one who has a deep regard for tradition and is apt to frown and pause before readily accepting a distortion to a long held belief or practice, i understand your concern. It is true that i have quite quickly adopted the more modern interpretation of the word "dinner" without a second glance backwards to see from whence it came, and what we have lost when we begin to ascribe this new meaning. It is here that i stand corrected.

I do believe that the very fact that we are having this conversation is proof itself that the word "dinner" must be reconsidered and redefined. At some point in its longstanding history, "dinner" slipped into a rather deteriorated state in which, as is made obvious by this exchange, people no longer could agree on its correct usage. Now, as the point of speaking is to communicate an intended meaning, it makes sense that meaning must be narrowly defined. It is possible, i suppose, (though not desireable) to explain the meaning of the word "dinner" with each individual use, however this grows tedious and, i must argue that the best solution lies in the redefinition of the word itself. (either that or split the country into two parts--those which regard dinner in the primitive way, and those who are much more avant-garde in their definitions). The former seems, to me, to impose the lesser burden on the people.

It may seem, to you, that a facile resolution would be to revert back to the former way of signifying the main meal of the day, primarily because it would require little discomfort for you and those who hail from your region. Though you have swayed me quite heavily with your rhetoric, I still believe that the most utilitarian (and yes, sometimes its ok to be utilitrian) approach would be to use the definition that the majority of our culture resonates with, it would be quite difficult, if not impossible to convince them that a regression in language is in any way neccesary. We would do best to educate them in the history of the language, primarily the signifier "dinner", and hope that this would, in some way, effect their understanding of the new word by observing from whence it came.

It seems to me that where i erred in my original post, was to scoff at a word that has such a rich meaning for less than half of our country, and far less in our world. I will try in the future to regard such words with more care and a greater interest in their cultural history.

Because i do not think that either of these definitions is more correct, i am convinced that it would be in the best interest of all those who speak to side with the majority so as to clear up an ambiguity and misunderstanding as it relates to our use of the word "dinner".

But, please, show me where this course of action falls short.

Andrew said...

As soon as I got home and Ben posted his comment I told him that you would be up til 4 AM working on a response. I was close, 3:38, not bad. Get some sleep kid.

Kyle said...

Annie.
Prove to me that you are actually in the "majority" and I might start siding with you on this. But I must say that your claim to a majority is completely unsubstantiated. Since when does your opinion of the state of our country become what is actually true for a at least 150 million people?

annie.marie.dimond. said...

Kyle, kyle, kyle,

Do you truly wish for me to give an account of every person in this country? If so, I apologize, because i cannot, even if networking and woo were some of my strengths.

This question is not easily solved, and all i can tell you is that having lived in Missouri and California and having family from Texas, Minnesota, and Colorao--the aforementioned "dinner-supper" conundrum, in these states, is not even a problem that people under 75 are aware of. (California and Texas alone make up a large portion of our country as it is).


Do you think i would make such a claim and rest my entire argument on it unless i did, in fact, believe it to be unquestionably true that the majority of our country regards "dinner" as word that signifies the evening meal? It is for this reason that you can be assured that i, in no way, aim to decieve you or sway you using numbers that i have not the least bit of confidence in. I do not attempt to construct flimsy arguments whose very foundation may be in question. I have a bit more foresight than that, i would hope.
If this is not sufficient enough proof, as i'm sure it not since i myself would not be satisfied by it, i would then ask you to proceed as if i am correct. If you can substantiate your belief in the fallacy of my majority claim, then my whole argument will be rendered irrelevant. However, as it stands, i believe the burden of proof has fallen into your arms.