Twanglish Lesson: Supper vs. Dinner

Today’s Twanglish Lesson highlights a noticeable generation gap among Southerners. Those of us under fifty, especially if we’ve lived in a medium-sized or large city, have our own opinion about these words. Our elders think differently. And we’re sure that no small amount of confusion, no paltry sum of family feuds have begun because of a younger person showing up too late or their parents showing up too early for a planned meal.

So it’s time to set the record straight on the “real” Twanglish meanings of these words. And by real, we means the ones that have been around since long before most of us were born:

Dinner noun 1. The midday meal:

Y’all ought to come over to the church for our dinner on the grounds.

adjective 1. of or relating to the midday meal:

When do you get your dinner break from the Walmarts?

noun 1. The evening meal, as distinct from dinner:

Momma, I done kilt a possum for supper tonight!

adjective 1. of or pertaining to the evening meal:

Cracker Barrel must be run by Yankees, because they gave me a dinner menu at supper time.

No one over 50 in the South has ever eaten lunch a day in their life. They eat dinner. And what we relative youngsters sometimes call dinner is just plain supper to them. It’s not the older generations’ fault. As with diminishing Southern accents, we here at RSM blame the mass media. If you grow up hearing Big Bird, Captain Kangaroo or some bratty Disney Channel starlet calling the midday meal lunch and the evening meal dinner, you’re probably going to emulate them.

Your goal today is to kick it old school, verbally speaking. Invite your co-workers to a nice dinner. Take your spouse out to supper. And be sure you know what your parents mean when they invite you over for dinner this weekend. Finding an hours-old rack of ribs and a cold pot of greens isn’t nearly as bad as facing the mother who cooked them.

See, who says blogs can’t be helpful? A family save is a family earned … or something platitudinal like that.

11 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Supper vs. Dinner”

  1. In my neck of the woods (and I’m slightly over 50, and totally Southern), dinner was the main or large meal of the day – whether mid-day or evening. Lunch was a lesser meal served mid-day. Supper was a lesser meal served in the evening.

    • Now that’s an interesting take we’ve not heard. Sort of reminds us of hobbits, with their breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.

    • Therefore, the Industrial Revolution can be blamed for the lack of a dinner/supper difference. As the midday meal ceased to be the biggest meal of the day because of work requirements, it became impossible to ever have anything but lunch.

  2. I love your blog! I hope you don’t mind if I link back to this post. I am writing a story about my father’s childhood and this Twanglish lesson fit’s right in. BTW I’m a 4th generation native Texan and speak fluent Twanglish. 😉

  3. THANK YOU so much for this! This is how I grew up and people seem to think its backwards!

  4. Funny…I always heard it as, “Dinner on the ground.”

    “After church, we gonna have an all-day singin’ and dinner on the ground.”

    I’m not sure if they meant the actual ground, like a picnic (either outside of the church or at some other nice outdoor place), or if they meant an outdoor meal on the church property (church grounds) but not necessarily literally sitting on the ground; maybe at picnic tables or in those old-fashioned wooden folding chairs. It’s a little confusing since, as I was growing up, they were used interchangeably and I’ve done both. But I do know I’ve never heard, “Dinner on the grounds.”

  5. Omfg…no. I am a Yankee woman from PA. This post is basically ignoring the term “supper” came from the French “souper.” Which was modeled after the last supper…Literally the LORD’S SUPPER…so?

    • Jessie, thanks for commenting. We haven’t done anything on this site for several years now, but the intent with these was always to be tongue-in-cheek. We’re not trying to offer a real etymology here, just poke a little fun at our Southern upbringing. Sorry for any confusion on that point.


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    […] meal.  (For a of humorous explanation of supper vs dinner check out the Real Southern Men blog:  After dinner, which I’m sure consisted of fried chicken, pinto beans, collard greens, […]

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