Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

What do we eat with our cups of tea?

I’ve just finished reading Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, and loved it. BUT – at one point I think he’s mistaken about Australian English, which makes me wonder whether I can trust him on other matters.

To wit: “In Australia, people eat cookies, not biscuits”.

I eat biscuits. Always have. Definitely not cookies. But then I’m only second-generation Australian and I use lots of Scottish terms picked up from my mother: pants and vest rather than knickers/jocks and singlet; sweets rather then lollies; that sort of thing. So before metaphorically making nasty faces at Bryson I need to double-check with other Australians.
Do we eat biscuits or cookies?


September 9, 2008 - Posted by | Life, etc., Slightly Higher Culture


  1. I eat biscuits. Or bikkies. But then, I was a £10 Pom.

    On a different note — counting the sleeps yet?

    Comment by PaulW | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. I eat biscuits, as does Bruce (ie my husband). On my father’s side of the family, I go back to the first settlers in the Windsor district outside Sydney ie the early 1800s. Ceiridwen, our daughter, tends to eat cookies, but she grew up watching Sesame Street. I think Bryson is wrong.

    Comment by Judy Redman | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. In Australia it’s definitely biscuits and not cookies, which are American. In fact one piece of folklore I assimilated years ago was that in the tradition of ANZAC biscuits, there is some kind of caveat that they MUST be called biscuits and not cookies, because of their Australian heritage.

    Interesting the silly things one retains from primary school social studies!

    Comment by Caro | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. cookies?!! i’m outraged. as caro says, most importantly of all, they are anzac biscuits. QED.

    Comment by daiskmeliadorn | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. When in Australia, I eat biscuits. When in America, I eat cookies.

    Comment by Cat | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  6. Oh no! If Bryson was wrong on this, how can I trust him on anything else?

    Paul, not counting sleeps yet. Barely have time to breathe, let alone think of something a whole four weeks ahead!

    Comment by Avril | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  7. I’m writing from the land of cookies – the USA. However, my grandmother taught me that a biscuit was formed by dropping biscuit mixture from a spoon or rolling the mixture between the hands into a ball, whereas a cookie is cut with a cookie cutter……

    She did win the melbourne show best fruit cake prize five years in a row in her youth, so I’m not going to quibble with her.

    Comment by Rosie | September 9, 2008 | Reply

  8. I too eat biscuits but call the things that you cut them out with cookie cutters.

    Comment by Pete | September 12, 2008 | Reply

  9. four votes for biscuits from us in flemington.
    but i think we can we forgive bill one mistake. but only one!

    Comment by Veryan | September 13, 2008 | Reply

  10. Definitely biscuits. Kindly inform Mr Bryson on our behalf.

    I’m having an ongoing dispute with my mother over “crackers”, i.e., dry or savoury biscuits. I call them biscuits too, except when they’re rice crackers — can’t quite bring myself to say ‘rice biscuits.’

    I think in the States a ‘biscuit’ is something like a scone. Does Bryson say that? And in my experience, there is no translation of the word “savoury” into US English. Hence maple syrup on bacon, pumpkin pie and marshmallows with pot roast, etc.

    Comment by Olivia | September 15, 2008 | Reply

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