In the grand scheme of things this is not even a blimp on the radar, only I recently had the word supper changed to dinner by a copy editor. Even with everything else going on in the world, that troubled me.
The editor said dinner is used more often. I responded in the South we eat supper and go to dinner.
That didn’t help.
Not to be defeated, I did my favorite thing—research—and discovered dinner doesn’t refer to a specific time of day but refers to the main meal. The word supper comes from the Old French word “souper,” meaning “evening meal.”
In her NPR interview, food historian Helen Zoe Veit says, “[In the 18th and early 19th centuries,] Americans regularly ate a light supper as their evening meal because they were eating dinner—the biggest meal of the day—around noon.”
(Who knew there was such a thing as a food historian?)
Anyway, Veit further explains the reason for eating the biggest meal at noontime was so farmers would have more strength and energy to get through the rest of their workday. When Americans began working away from their homes and farms and couldn’t easily return home to cook and eat in the middle of the day, large noon meals disappeared too. Having the main meal of the day in the evening meant they could spend more time enjoying their food and spending time with their family.
The word supper is more commonly used in Southern and Midwestern states. Mostly likely because those regions are agricultural.
Nowadays I think most folks eat meals at all hours, not necessarily by the clock or large meals. You can have brunch between breakfast and lunch and lupper between lunch and bedtime.
Heads up here… you’re not going to find that word lupper in the dictionary. It’s a word I made up to explain to my children why lunch was skipped and there’d be no supper.
In my research I ran across this fascinating blog on the supper vs dinner question. Lovely vintage photos. Take a peek, you’ll enjoy it.
P.S. The word supper stayed. After all, the story takes place in rural Texas. That is supper eating country.