The Dinner vs Supper Debacle

Written by: Amy Allendar

Here’s a fun fact for you: researchers over the last decade have discovered that “moist” is among the most disliked words in the English language. Over the past year, multiple articles have been written by outlets ranging from The New Yorker to Buzzfeed to The LA Times discussing why Americans, in particular, seem to loathe this particular adjective.
“Moist” is so disliked that about 20% of Americans avoid using it and cringe when they hear it. That’s one out of every five of us.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_6146-768x1024.jpg
Right: I’m honestly curious. Do you eat dinner or supper? Is there a distinct difference between the two?”
Amy Alender photo

Personally, I have no aversion to the word “moist.” But there is a word that I dislike with a passion. It feels icky in my mouth, and my teeth seem to itch when I say it out loud.

It’s the word “supper.” I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. It’s just the way I am. “Supper.” Yuck, gross. Hard pass.
Where I come from, an aversion to the word supper has little to no effect on life. We use supper and dinner interchangeably. No one cares if you never say “supper” in your life, and there will never be a miscommunication about which meal you are referring to if you tell someone to come for “dinner” instead of “supper.”

In Hotdish Land, things are different. I was reminded of this just yesterday when I was making dinner plans with a friend.
Our text message exchange went like this: “Why don’t I take you and the boys out for lunch?” my friend asked.
“We’ve got something going on until about 12:30. We could easily come over for dinner though,” I replied.
“Sounds good,” she said. “I’ll get food and have it here between 12:30 and 1. Is that okay?”
“Sorry, I meant dinner. Could we eat around 5?” I said back.
“Oh! Yes. That’s the old ND way where we have dinner at noon. 5pm. Culver’s or pizza?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into the dinner vs supper debacle; it probably won’t be my last. What a silly thing that two people can hear the same word and picture two different things. A meal in late afternoon, a meal in the evening.
But isn’t that life? Isn’t that one of the beautiful things about being human? I bring what I know and what’s normal to me. You bring what you know and what’s normal to you. When life tangles our paths, we learn. We hear a new meaning in an old word. We discover a new normal we never knew existed. We uncover something small but important to someone else.
A miscommunication only happens because we are communicating in the first place. The misunderstanding about supper, lunch, and dinner only took place because my friend and I were attempting to enjoy a meal together.

It doesn’t matter whose word is right, wrong, or less icky. What matters is our lovely ability as humans to understand one another, grow, and meet in the middle. What matters is our deep human desire to develop relationships and be understood.
I may not know whether you prefer to sit at a dinner table or a supper table, but I know you are bringing something unique to the proverbial table. Our community is special in that it carries both longstanding Upper Midwest culture and an array of citizens who have relocated from cities all across the country; in some cases, the world. You are bringing something to our community that we didn’t have before. Your sense of humor, skills, experiences, perspectives, and even the words you use offer our community something we didn’t have before. Your “you-ness” is exactly what we need. No matter where you’ve come from or how long you’ve been here, I’m glad life has brought you here.

Let’s continue to communicate, miscommunicate, and strive toward relationships. And in my opinion, there’s no better place to do that than over dinner. Or supper. Whichever you prefer.

For more stories from Hotdish Land and positive perspectives, join me online at, Instagram (@amy_allender or @heyminot), or Facebook (@amyallenderblog).

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