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Rasher
Posted: 14 February 2013 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is the term rasher [of bacon] used at all in Leftpondia? - and what does it mean when it is? If not normally used, is it generally understood?

I ask because a friend of mine who is reading A Game of Thrones reports seeing the word rasher used there in a context that he thought implied a rather substantial slice, and wondered George R R Martin was using a (to Leftpondians) archaic-sounding word that he didn’t really understand. My friend says he checked with an American colleague who disclaimed any knowledge of the word. And online I found fans of Martin’s books solemnly asking each other in discussion forums what a ‘rasher’ might be, and answers such as ‘a portion of sliced meat’ and ‘anywhere from one slice of bacon to many such slices’ both of which are, to a Rightpondian, way off target. But the people on these boards were also having to ask what brazier, bugger, roundel, portcullis, jest, dirk and thrall meant, so I’m guessing their vocabularies in general weren’t that large.

On another tack: do people who do use rasher use it of anything other than bacon? I (a born Londoner living in Kent) wouldn’t, except as a flight of fancy. But the OED offers this:

In extended use: a slice or portion of any foodstuff.
1634 T. Heywood Maidenhead Lost iii, in Wks. IV. 142 We will haue a Cherry-Tart cut into Rashers and broyled.
1890 R. M. Johnston Widow Guthrie 164 You look as comfortable as a bee on a rasher of watermelon.
1965 M. Johnson in I Declare (1983) 52, I went over to get me a rasher of light bread.
2001 Bradenton (Florida) Herald (Nexis) 11 Apr. (Taste section) 1 It is nice to serve fastidious guests a bright, red rasher cut from a seedless watermelon.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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My experience is that rasher is not in common use in North America, but it is occasionally seen in cookbooks and other such contexts. (My 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking uses slice instead.) Several American websites that use the term also say it can mean a serving of bacon consisting of several slices, which may be why Martin implies that it may be more.

Note that when I Googled “rasher cooking” the first two hits referred to “English rasher bacon” and “British rashers.”

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Posted: 14 February 2013 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in American use.  It’s certainly not well known.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve also heard Americans call it a strip of bacon.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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When I was stationed at Cecil Field, Florida (this was back in the 80’s) there was a Royal Navy squadron training there for several months.  One morning I was behind a few British sailors in the chow line, and one asked the cook for a “portion” of bacon.  He had to say it two or three times before he was understood, it being (apparently) an unusual way to order bacon, to the ears of a typical southern black woman.  Any of us would have said, “a couple of slices”.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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When I was stationed at Cecil Field, Florida (this was back in the 80’s) there was a Royal Navy squadron training there for several months.  One morning I was behind a few British sailors in the chow line, and one asked the cook for a “portion” of bacon.  He had to say it two or three times before he was understood, it being (apparently) an unusual way to order bacon, to the ears of a typical southern black woman.  Any of us would have said, “a couple of slices”.

He’d probably have had to say it a couple of times back home before being understood, too! My guess is that he had learned that asking for ‘X rashers’ didn’t work in Florida, and was trying to figure out what would make sense to this strange foreign woman.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Back about ‘84-’94 a fast food chain (Perhaps just in Salt Lake City.) bombarded us with TV ads for a breakfast special that included “two rashers of bacon” so many of us heard the term, often.

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Posted: 14 February 2013 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’d heard the term often enough but apparently not in a context where I had a good idea what it meant.  I grew up thinking a rasher of bacon was a large amount.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 12:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Some of you might think I’m hardly the person best qualified to pontificate about rashers of bacon ;-) --- but I have, in my time, mingled with baconophagi, on both sides of the pond. The word “rasher”, for me, evokes the image of a slice of bacon, and nothing else at all. I found the OED cites quite disconcerting; the notion of “a rasher of cherry tart”, or “a rasher of watermelon”, was totally novel for me. And I suspect it would be equally novel, and equally odd-sounding, to most rightpondians. “A rasher of Lyons’ French Cream Sandwich”? “A rasher of smoked salmon with cream cheese on a bagel”? Heaven forfend!  ;-)

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Posted: 15 February 2013 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I agree; those ‘rashers’ of bread and watermelon startled me too. Rasher is, in SE England certainly, so completely restricted to bacon that the question ‘How many rashers would you like?’ is quite unambiguous; there is no danger at all of getting the response ‘Rashers of what?’, because slices of other cured meats, let alone other kinds of food, just aren’t called rashers.  They logically could be, but they aren’t. I really do wonder if the word was being used as a deliberate oddity in all those quotes.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well, you know, a “rash” of something means “a lot”, so maybe, to us left-pondians a “rasher” of bacon just feels like it should be A LOT of bacon.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I see the OED suggests, tentatively, an ultimate link with the verb “raze” in the older sense of “to cut or shave off”, ultimately from classical Latin rās- , past participial stem of rādere, to scrape, shave, which also gave us “razor”, and which certainly seems plausible.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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- A ‘shaving’ of bacon, then? Makes sense.

And I suppose for a slice of bacon to have its own unique name is no odder than for a root of ginger to have one. At least, I don’t know of any other plant whose root is called a ‘race’.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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{ginger} root is called a ‘race’.

Are other Americans familiar with this?  It’s news to me, and I consider myself moderately foodie-ish.

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Posted: 15 February 2013 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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This Brit isn’t.  The latest citation in OED is The Observer in 1996:

I notice that a hand of ginger is also known as a ‘race’.

The use of the quotation marks implies that this usage is relatively uncommon, so don’t beat yourself up about it. 

I seem to remember talking about strips of bacon in South Africa.

[ Edited: 15 February 2013 12:27 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 15 February 2013 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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New to me, too. Thanks, Syntinen Laulu! You are an amazing fount of delicious droplets of exotic information.

Look what I found on the www:

Goosey, goosey, gander,
Where shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs,
And in my lady’s chamber.
There you’ll find a glass of sack
And a race of ginger.

Never heard the last two lines before.... and I note that my available American on-line dictionaries (AHD, M-W, Etymonline) do not give “a root of ginger” as one of the definitions of “Race”, but the Compact Oxford English Dictionary does (with the qualification: “dated")

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