Ahh, the English language; both beautiful and bizarre in equal measure.
Centuries have seen it harnessed by some of the world’s greatest linguists, thinkers, and influencers to articulate the most poignant points: Shakespeare, Newton, Lincoln, Luther-King, the list goes on. From “to be or not to be”, to “I have a dream”, history has shown example after example of wordsmiths crafting the English language into art, arguments and theories. These have inspired actions, movements, and global change.
Of course, that’s all well and good. But there are times when the English language can also be used as a weapon. When it can divide us and turn us against our closest neighbours.
There are times when it can be downright dangerous. And one such time, is when it places five simple words next to an image:
“What do you call this?”
This little fella here has incited some of the most passionate linguistic debates of our generation, namely because nobody knows what to call it. Or, rather, everybody does – but their answers are all completely different.
So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the answers to the age-old question: what exactly is the right name for a bread roll?
Bap. Widely regarded as the most common and widespread name (although those in team ‘cob’ would probably disagree). Used in the North-West, including Liverpool, Blackpool, Lancaster and parts of Manchester. Also used in South Wales, including Cardiff and the Republic of Ireland, in the Cork region. It can also be found in pockets in the South of England, in Brighton, Hastings, and Portsmouth.
Cob. Closely rivaling ‘bap’ in terms of its use across the UK. Used in the Scottish highlands, and all along the East coast regions of England, including Newcastle, Sunderland, Hull (although ‘bap’ does make an appearance in Leeds, Sheffield, and York) and Norwich.
Morning roll. This one pops up in different places around the UK, including the very tip of Northern Ireland, Sussex, Somerset, Devon, and Shropshire. Also used in the Aberdeen and Inverness regions of central Scotland. These rolls tend to be ever so slightly different from your usual bread roll, as they’re traditionally made with crisp, charred lids.
Batch. Found mainly in the West Midlands, in Warwickshire, Nuneaton, and Coventry. Also cropping up occasionally on the Wirral, near Liverpool.
Bun. Found in the North East and parts of Yorkshire, including Durham, Northumberland, and Cumbria. Not to be confused with the ‘iced bun’, used across the whole of the UK – which is essentially a bread roll, but slightly different as it has a bit of icing on top.
Muffin. Most reports find this term exclusively used in Greater Manchester. But a few also trace its use to parts of Ireland – in the Galway and Westport regions.
Bin lid. Found exclusively in Liverpool and the surrounding areas and often used in chip shops to describe what most people would call a ‘chip butty’ (the phrase, in this case, being ‘chip bin lid’).
Teacake. This one causes a lot of aggro for people, especially since the definition of a ‘teacake’ varies from the current-laden toasted variety to the Marshmallow-filled Tunnocks’ that arrive wrapped in foil. Although the use of this term to describe a plain bread roll is less widespread, it does exist. Parts of Yorkshire and Cornwall include communities that regularly use this when talking about their sandwiches.
Oggie. Perhaps one of the most obscure names — this is typically used in Cornwall and the South West.
Barm cake. Somewhere around the North-West region, people thought it might be sensible to throw the term ‘cake’ into the mix – as if things weren’t confusing enough.
Bread cake. Leeds’ take on the ‘barm cake’.
Stottie cake. …And Newcastle’s.
Overall, there are more than 20 variations of terms used to describe the same thing. And if this wasn’t enough for you, across the pond things don’t get much easier.
In other English-speaking countries, it would seem that ‘bread roll’ also just isn’t enough. In Australia, sandwiches are often abbreviated to ‘sangers’. In the USA, certain types of baked bread are called (and this is where things start to get tricky) ‘biscuits’, and sandwiches are often called ‘subs’, although in Pennsylvania and Delaware you might hear them referred to as ‘grinders’ (but only if they’re toasted).
The bread roll is a shining example of how malleable, adaptable and accepting the English language really is. It functions as a reminder of the benefits of diversity and cultural exchange. As different communities from around the world have traveled and set up their lives in English-speaking countries and adopted the language as their own, words and dialects have changed and adapted. The varied and eclectic names for a bread roll show the weird and wonderful impacts of cultural exchange and global migration, with the movement of people, and the exchange of ideas and dialogue central to this.
As languages, dialects and accents mingle and intertwine and as new friends are formed, so are new words and phrases. These help to build a sense of community identity and also represent our differences as human beings. And this is a wonderful thing; it is our differences which make life interesting. I mean, imagine a world where everyone called a bread roll, a bread roll? Where’s the fun in that?
Header image: Kingarthurflour.com