Just a sliver!

by Kate Woodford

sliverWe’re still looking at food and drink this month, or more particularly, the words that we use to refer to pieces and quantities. (There are a surprising number of them, each with a slightly different meaning.)

We’ll start with food. Many words for pieces of food refer specifically to the shape or size of the piece, and some refer to both. A very thin slice of food may be called a sliver: She took a sharp knife and cut a sliver of cheese.  A hunk of food, such as bread or cheese, is a big, thick piece of it, often with no clear shape: He pulled off a great hunk of bread. Chunks are fairly large, roughly cut pieces of food: big chunks of meat in gravy/Cut the vegetables roughly into chunks. A slab is a large, thick, flat slice of food, such as meat or cheese: I didn’t really fancy a big slab of meat. A wedge of food, meanwhile, is a piece in the shape of a triangle: a wedge of lemon/cheese.

Other words are associated with particular foods. In British English, you sometimes hear the phrase a knob of butter, meaning ‘a small piece of butter’: Heat a knob of butter in the pan. People sometimes refer to a large, round lump of cream, ice cream, or other soft food as a dollop: a slice of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream

A sprinkling or a scattering of a food such as cheese or herbs, refers to a lot of small pieces dropped over a surface: Top each bowl with a generous sprinkling of fresh mint.

A taste is a very small amount of food or drink that you taste in order to try it: Here, have a taste of this soup. Isn’t it delicious? If a dish has a hint of a particular food or drink in it, it has a very small amount that you can only just taste: There’s just a hint of orange in the sauce. A pinch is a very small amount of a food that is like a powder: a pinch of salt/sugar/dried thyme.

And so to drink and liquid food. A drop is often used to mean ‘a small amount’: More wine, Paul?” “Just a drop, please.” A dash and a splash are also small amounts, but usually of a liquid food added to something else, such as milk or cream to tea or coffee: “Cream with your coffee, Amy?” “Yes please – just a dash/splash.” An amount of strong alcoholic drink that you can swallow at one time might be referred to informally as a slug: She took a slug of vodka. Interestingly, you also hear ‘slug’ used in a cooking context, often in combination with the word ‘oil’: Add a generous slug of olive oil and gently mix in. A blob, meanwhile, is a fat, round drop of a sticky, thick liquid: a blob of cream/tomato sauce.

So when cooking, it helps to know your blobs from your hunks, and your knobs from your slugs…!

13 thoughts on “Just a sliver!

  1. A brief addendum: In American English, a small serving a strong liquor, often consumed in one gulp, is a “shot,” and the small glass used to serve it is called a “shot glass.” In some bars (and recipes) a shot glass is used to measure spirits.

  2. Mohamed Ali`

    This is a very useful for everyone who their first language is not English as well as it for English speakers.

    1. All are possible: to sip a drink is to drink in small quantities; ‘slug’ and ‘chug’ are much less common, but both mean to drink in large quantities, particularly alcoholic drinks.

  3. abhishek

    Is there any other word to describe the drinking process? Especially when the intake is larger than a sip and lesser than a slug?

  4. This is a bit off topic, but still. I am curious about the usage and meaning of the collocation you used, “And so”. I haven’t found much about it when I googled it. I have a vague picture what it means, but I would like to know how to use it. Thank you for your help. And keep up the good work! 🙂

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