For the diligent reader, here's some etymological
lore about lobsters, crayfish, prawns, and other
lexicographically challenging but delicious crustaceans.

First, this from AHD3:


Word History: The crayfish, also known as the crawfish, owes its name to a misunderstanding. The actual source of the word may be the Old High German word krebiz, "edible crustacean," or a word related to it. From this Germanic source came Old French crevice, which when taken into English became crevise (first recorded in a document written in 1311-1312). In Old French and Middle English these words designated the crayfish. People began to pronounce and spell the last part of this word as if it were fish, the first fish spelling (actually fysshes) being recorded in 1555. Because of a variation in Anglo-Norman pronunciation, two forms of the word have come down to Modern English: crayfish and crawfish.


Note that the French aren't great at this stuff either, using "langoustines" to refer to both crayfish and prawns, and using both "langouste" and "homard" to refer to the spiny lobster.

Here's clarification of related terms, from a food-related site that includes some recipes


Crayfish are fresh water decapods. Even though they resemble spiny lobsters they are smaller. Close cousins perhaps, but no more. Crayfish in French are ecrivesses. Be there no question but that the best crayfish dishes in the world are served in the state of Louisiana.
Langoustines are closely related to the crayfish but are salt water decapods. Even though the word langoustine is French, it is used in English as well because true langoustines do not exist in North America. One happy bit of news is that recipes calling for crayfish or langoustines can be used interchangeably. The meat of both are delicious, but you will find that crayfish are somewhat lighter and more puffy on the palate and it is that trait that makes them so highly prized throughout France.
To add a bit of confusion, prawns, which are very closely related to shrimps but are not (as is commonly thought) merely "large shrimps" are also called langoustines in French. That is not so much an error (especially on menus) as it is an attempt to give prawns a somewhat higher "status".

Shrimps, which are salt water creatures are called crevettes in French. Some fresh water shrimps also exist but these are not highly prized in the culinary world.
As to lobsters themselves - these salt water creatures come in two general varieties - the spiny lobster (common in France) and the smooth shelled lobster (North America, South Africa, etc). Although smooth shelled lobsters are always called homard in French, the spiny lobster can be referred to as either langouste or homard).



Michael West
Wearing a white sportcoat
and a pink crustacean
1 2 3 4
Michael West infrared:
Here's clarification of related terms, from a food-related site that includes some recipes (http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/crayfish.html ):

To add a bit of confusion, prawns, which are very closely related to shrimps but are not (as is commonly ... called crevettes in French. Some fresh water shrimps also exist but these are not highly prized in the culinary world.

What you've quoted here is what I understand the US terminology to be, but the Australian rules are a bit different. The very large prawns are called "King prawns" here, and we use the unadorned word "prawn" as the name for what the French call crevettes. I've never been quite sure what a shrimp is - I'm not even sure that we can buy them here - but I've always understood it to be like a prawn but very much smaller: possibly the same as the French "crevette grise", although in fact those are not a whole lot smaller than the ordinary crevettes.
Does US English also allow the metaphorical use of "shrimp" to mean anything undersized? I guess not, if the word is used for the larger end of the size spectrum.

Peter Moylan peter at ee dot newcastle dot edu dot au http://eepjm.newcastle.edu.au (OS/2 and eCS information and software)
Michael West infrared:

Here's clarification of related terms, from a food-related site that includes some recipes (http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/crayfish.html ):

To add a bit of confusion, prawns, which are very ... but these are not highly prized in the culinary world.

What you've quoted here is what I understand the US terminology to be, but the Australian rules are a bit ... same as the French "crevette grise", although in fact those are not a whole lot smaller than the ordinary crevettes.

Those things that Paul Hogan promised to throw
on the barbie?
I think we'll have to wait for someone to tell us whether French distinguishes between "prawn" and "shrimp". I know they use "crevette" for shrimp the little guys. Whether they have a separate word for "prawn" (other than
"langoustines", which is something else again I don't know.
Does US English also allow the metaphorical use of "shrimp" to mean anything undersized?

Yes it does which is what makes "jumbo shrimp"
a somewhat droll oxymoron.
Here's what Encarta has to say:
Prawn, common name applied to numerous species of
shrimp-like, ten-legged crustaceans. The prawn is
distinguished from the shrimp mainly by a long, serrated rostrum, or beak, that projects from the shell. Prawns are widely distributed in both fresh and brackish waters in temperate and tropical regions. The common European prawn occurs in great numbers along sandy shores. It averages about 10 cm (4 in) in length and is valued as a table delicacy. Large prawns are known by several names, including Dublin Bay prawn, king prawn, and scampi. There are several American species of edible prawns, including a small variety found off the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and a 15-cm (6-in) southern species often marketed as shrimp. Freshwater prawns native to the Tropics may attain a length of more than 60 cm (2 ft).
Scientific classification: Prawns belong to the order Decapoda. The common European prawn, classified as Palaemon serratus, and an edible prawn found off the Atlantic coast of America, classified as Palaemonetes vulgaris, belong to the family Palaemonidae. The southern species of edible prawn often marketed as shrimp belongs to the family Penaeidea and is classified as Panaeus setiferus.
"Prawn," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Michael West
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Michael West infrared: What you've quoted here is what ... are not a whole lot smaller than the ordinary crevettes.

Those things that Paul Hogan promised to throw on the barbie?

...in advertisements intended for American consumption. Whether his usage conformed to AmE or not I can't say, but it is commonly accepted in Australia that it certainly didn't conform to AusE. Hence the Fosters ads at the time of the Sydney Olympics.

Redwine
Hamburg
(previously: Berlin, Northants, Derbs, Staffs, NSW, Tasmania, Melbourne, rural Victoria, in that and many other orders)
Those things that Paul Hogan promised to throw on the barbie?

...in advertisements intended for American consumption. Whether his usage conformed to AmE or not I can't say, but it is commonly accepted in Australia that it certainly didn't conform to AusE.

Yes, I know having spent 50 years in the US and 10 in Oz. Americans popularly use "shrimp" for both shrimp and prawns, but I'm sure many of them now know the difference and are more careful with the terms than they used to be. Scampi are popular there in Italian-style restaurants, and are generally called scampi rather than "prawn" or "shrimp". I think it is widely believed by American restaurant-goers that scampi are a different animal though they are in fact prawns.

Michael West
I think it is widely believed by American restaurant-goers that scampi are a different animal though they are in fact prawns.

Now I'm wishing I hadn't written that last bit about scampi, because it needs qualification. As I understand it, what the Italians call scampi are in fact not prawns, but another marine animal closely related to the lobster and yet not a lobster, either.
However, what many Italian-style restaurants in the US serve as "scampi" are actually prawns.

Michael West
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
I think it is widely believed by American restaurant-goers that scampi are a different animal though they are in fact prawns.

Now I'm wishing I hadn't written that last bit about scampi, because it needs qualification. As I understand it, what ... and yet not a lobster, either. However, what many Italian-style restaurants in the US serve as "scampi" are actually prawns.

Now I feel better. I have often eaten Scampi that were in no way prawnicular.

Redwine
Hamburg
(previously: Berlin, Northants, Derbs, Staffs, NSW, Tasmania, Melbourne, rural Victoria, in that and many other orders)
I think it is widely believed by American restaurant-goers that scampi are a different animal though they are in fact prawns.

Now I'm wishing I hadn't written that last bit about scampi, because it needs qualification. As I understand it, what ... and yet not a lobster, either. However, what many Italian-style restaurants in the US serve as "scampi" are actually prawns.

To, I'd guess, most Americans, "scampi" doesn't refer to the animal at all, but to a particular style of preparation (with a garlic sauce). That there is little association between the two can be seen from the fact that many will call the dish "shrimp scampi" (42,500 Google hits), which is what I called it growing up. And by the fact that you will occasionally come across "lobster scampi" or even "chicken scampi" referring to other meats with the same preparation.

This American doesn't really distinguish (culinarily) between shrimp and prawns. They're all just shrimp.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >People think it must be fun to be a
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >super genius, but they don'tPalo Alto, CA 94304 >realize how hard it is to put up

http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
Those things that Paul Hogan promised to throw on the barbie?

Whence the expression, Strine I believe, "Don't come the raw prawn with me." It's meaning is normally obvious from the context, is more likely to be used by a dusty, thirsty opal miner than a Melbourne housewife, but how did it get there, and why?
Edward

The reading group's reading group:
http://www.bookgroup.org.uk
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
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