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What do you call that delicious cheesy oven-baked macaroni dish?

September 15, 2015

In Sainsbury’s at the moment, there’s a big advertising poster which shows a delicious-looking dish of cheesy pasta, and the words “Try adding horseradish to your mac’n’cheese”.

Hold on. Let’s stop right there. Mac’n’cheese? This is the American term. We British call it macaroni cheese. There’s nothing better about the British form, but it is the one British shoppers are used to. Why did Sainsbury’s decide to foist an unfamiliar form upon us? From their point of view it’s counter-productive. The effect is to distract me from thinking about maybe buying some horseradish to put in my macaroni cheese, and cause me to wonder instead whether Sainsbury’s have appointed an American as head of advertising, and all their underlings are too scared of them to point out that we don’t say mac’n’cheese here.

Incidentally, the US term is an example of hendiadys: a figure of speech where two words that form a single idea are expressed as separate nouns linked by and – eg bread and butter instead of buttered bread, or grace and favour instead of gracious favour, or nice and warm instead of nicely warm.

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4 Comments
  1. Debbie Smith permalink

    I call it “disgusting!!!!” – the dish itself because I’ve always hated it, and THAT name Sainsbury’s are calling it!! So sick of such “Americanisms” in our everyday life to be honest! xx

  2. Aikaterini Procopaki permalink

    Call me a hendiadys denier (or skeptic, or doubter, as is the latest trend), or just presumptious, but I am not sure that “nice and warm” is equivalent to “nicely warm”. Or, for that matter, that “bread and butter” deserves an “and” less than “fish and chips” does. And if I were supposedly unfamiliar with the dish, “macaroni cheese” would perhaps mean to me “cheese in the shape of macaroni”.
    As a native speaker of Greek, I was first taught about hendiadys some 45 years ago in the higher grades of primary school. The textbook example was back then, and still is as I can see, a verse – probably from a demotic song judging from the iambic fifteen-syllable pattern – which translates as “may thunderbolt and fire fall upon your yard”. The explanation of the hendiadys was that the two nouns are used instead of “fiery thunderbolt”. However, I am not fully convinced that this is the same thing. And why should fire from heaven, a common topos in the Bible and other traditions in its own right, be subsumed under the notion of thunderbolt? Couldn’t it just be for metrical reasons? Or by way of pleonasm, given the mounting exasperation of the utterance, which is a curse after all?
    Then I looked at some examples from ancient Greek and Roman literature. Many of them are doubtful. “Panem et circenses”, really? Circuses of bread? Bread circuses?
    Stretching this further towards the funny side, we could do away with all pairs: Adam and Eve (= the protoplasts, as we say in Greek), husband and wife (= a couple), Mr and Mrs Smith (= the Smiths – or Brangelina?).

  3. Brandon. This goes back to you guys taking part in Back in time for dinner. It’s that dietary control again isn’t it. But not necessarily for the good. I mean… coffee in a spag bol?! That is just bizarre and horrible. It’s also this culture of American food edging closer to the British menu and adding Horseradish to ‘Mac N Cheese? It’s nice but a strange way of asking people to buy the ingredients to make it.

  4. Jude permalink

    I know I’m late responding, but actually in the United States, we call it “macaroni and cheese”–Mac’n’Cheese is a marketing term invented by the Kraft corporation, which makes a despicable boxed version of macaroni and cheese, which they’d might as well call Mac’n’Cheese to distinguish it from the good stuff.

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