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Kent Wang

The default meat in language

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In Chinese, meat is called rou and unless otherwise specified, pork is the default meat, e.g. the dish translated as red-cooked pork is simply called hong shao rou, or literally red-cooked meat.

There are a few other similar simplifications in Chinese, cai literally means vegetable but refers to all non-rice dishes, and even more broadly, fan literally means rice but refers to all food, e.g. one asks literally if another has eaten rice to mean if they have eaten a meal already.

My rudimentary understanding of Spanish leads me to believe that there is a similarity with carne literally meaning meat but usually referring to beef.

Does this phenomenon exist in other languages?

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In Japan there is a famous home cooking dish called niku jaga. Niku means meat and jaga refers to the potatoes used in the dish which have the full name jaga imo. In western Japan the meat is understood to be pork. In the eastern half it is understood to be beef. I live in western Japan however when I hear niku in Japanese I think of beef first.


Edited by _john (log)

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In Japan there is a famous home cooking dish called niku jaga. Niku means meat and jaga refers to the potatoes used in the dish which have the full name jaga imo. In western Japan the meat is understood to be pork. In the eastern half it is understood to be beef. I live in western Japan however when I hear niku in Japanese I think of beef first.

In Western Japan, niku (meat) is beef, whereas in Eastern Japan, it is pork. Is this understood? In Aichi prefecture (the capital of which is Nagoya, which is famous for its Nagoya kochin (a variety of chicken)), it can be chicken.

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I know what you mean. Growing up, our default meat was lamb or mutton, unless it was specifed otherwise, such as beef burgers, except for sausages which are assumed to be beef unless otherwise noted. I don't think I've ever had pork sausages in Ireland.


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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I dunno...in the United States at least, beef may be "what's for dinner", but in the realm of politics and household economics, pork is indeed the default meat.

In the former, pork is what you want your own Congresscritter to deliver to your district or pet cause and at the same time what the Congresscritter the next district over wastes your tax dollars on. In the latter, it's what the breadwinner brings home -- okay, I'm talkin' bacon here specifically, but that's pork all the same.

But at the dinner table, bless our omnivorous souls, all meat is created equal -- but everything tastes better with bacon.


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In British Curry houses the 'Meat' curry usually means Lamb. Although most tend to be more specific these days.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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The nature of the pig is that is is really only kept to be eaten. Almost every other farm animal was at least dual purpose. So if you keep pigs then they are meat. Quite a bit of the worlds population doesn't eat pig, so that default isn't Universal.

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In the Philippines, when we say meat, we say "carne" in Tagalog. Carne also means beef. So the default meat word in my country is beef.

Pork is called "carneng baboy" or just baboy. Which is also the word for pig (the animal) or pig (glutton the human).


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

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I know what you mean. Growing up, our default meat was lamb or mutton, unless it was specifed otherwise, such as beef burgers, except for sausages which are assumed to be beef unless otherwise noted. I don't think I've ever had pork sausages in Ireland.

Really Pax? I don't think I have ever had a sausage that WASN'T pork in Ireland. A sausage made from anything else would be a speciality thing that would be bought from a "gourmet" sausage shop, at at least a fairly adventurous butcher. I don't think anyone buying a sausage would be expecting one made of anything other than pork unless they specifically requested it.

I don't think I associate any meat with being the default in Ireland - when I was growing up we had a fairly equal mix of beef, pork and lamb, and called each by their individual name.

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Well, I'm 40 now. And I was living out in the back of beyond in the country. I've lived here in the US longer than I ever lived there.

But yeah, that's what I remember growing up. I just remember the shock I had the first time I had sausages at breakfast here in the US.

We DID eat ham and pork, but it was CALLED ham or pork, whereas if it wasn't specified, we just assumed mutton.


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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Hmm, actually Doddie I was actually leaning towards pork being the default meat. Filipino dishes are quite specific in what they indicate, and "karne" doesn't typically appear in the name: it really is just a generic term for any mammalian meat.

Between "baka" (L. vaca, cow) and "baboy" (M. babi, pork), I believe pork wins out as the default, since beef is too expensive for frequent consumption, not to mention cow grazing lands are not that many, and in those regions, beef dishes abound (Region 4). However, a "babuyan" (pigsty) can be found in most places.

But I guess the Philippines isn't such a good example for this, since many dishes usually imply the type of meat (Tinola-chicken, Nilaga-beef, Binagoongan-pork, Sinampalukan-chicken, Batchoy-beef, Bopis-pork, Dinuguan-pork, etc). Only a few ones are vague, like "Adobo", and even then pork or chicken would be the implied meat. "Sinigang" might be pork, fish, or shrimp. "Kaldereta" might be beef or goat.


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My rudimentary understanding of Spanish leads me to believe that there is a similarity with carne literally meaning meat but usually referring to beef.

At least in Argentina, Carne means beef.

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in greece when we say meat (kreas) we mean veal. Veal is the most popular meat, but bare in mind that it is not the crate type. They are just young calves, fed with milk and after grass. most delicious meat

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My rudimentary understanding of Spanish leads me to believe that there is a similarity with carne literally meaning meat but usually referring to beef.

This will depend on where the Spanish was being spoken.

As Poffertjes just mentioned, in Argentina it might mean beef, but in my part of Spain (Alicante/Valencia) carne just means meat, one would have to quantify which kind.

The same might go for a cut of meat, such as a cutlet. In English (South East England) I might associate cutlet with pork, but when saying this word in Spanish I'm geographically 'programmed' to think of lamb (chuleta de cordero).

To be honest, in my part of Spain, certainly within my own family circel, beef is probably the meat least associated with 'carne', other parts with a stronger history of beef rearing may feel differently. It's usually called Ternera, Añojo or Novillo depending on the animal's age, there's not even a word that means 'beef' in the way it does in English, not unless you specifically refer to English style 'rosbif'.

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In Turkey, unless otherwise specified, et (meat) is red meat. One might talk about "tavuk eti" (chicken meat), but the fact that it generally is understood to mean "red meat" is illustrated by the frequency with which vegetarians in Turkey, when they ask for something other than meat, are offered chicken. Beef or lamb is the default. Though kebab is mostly lamb (some mixtures contain a mixture of beef and lamb), usually one has to specify - dana eti (lit. "calf meat" but it is the catch-all for beef, the technically more correct "sığır eti" is almost never used), or "kuzu eti." And of course there is the forbidden meat, "domuz eti" (pig meat). Definitely not the default here! :)


"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

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