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Do you supper?

Last week I gave a talk at the University of Bath and afterwards was invited to supper. I don't know about you, but generally speaking, I don't do supper. The word is not part of my everyday vocabulary.

Of course, being a northerner*, when I was young we used to have dinner as a midday meal and tea in the early evening - but these days it's more likely to be either lunch and tea or lunch and dinner. (The distinction between tea and dinner being primarily timing and/or where you have it. Tea is earlier than dinner, and you have tea in a tea room/the Ritz, but if you go out to a restaurant it is dinner.)

So what is this 'supper' thing? I think the origins were when some households had a quite substantial afternoon tea - 'high tea' - sandwiches and cakes, for instance - and then topped up in the evening with a light meal, perhaps a bowl of soup. But then we come across something like Colley's Supper Rooms, where 'Supper' appears to be a seven course meal. (Or rather used to be as Colley's seems to have gone bust in its original form.)

I am at a loss. Supper just doesn't work for me as a concept. (I don't like the word, either - it is too close to suppurate.) It's dining confusion. Or should that be supping confusion?

* Someone (Amanda) asked recently on Facebook whether they were still a Northerner after living down south longer than they had up north. Simple answer, yes.

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