Hamburger Helper

When I first moved to London, my flat mate Emma and I would spend hours talking about the differences in language between our two countries. Both being countries, in which, allegedly, the same language is spoken.

I've lived here for so long now that I don't really notice the differences as much anymore. I speak 'English' English more often than not (as opposed to 'American' English), writing 'loo roll' on the shopping list and always using 'trousers' to describe those things you wear on your legs. I don't even realize anymore when a word or phrase isn't said in America.

"What does 'dodgy' mean?" one American friend said to me.

But then, sometimes there's still a comical language moment. This happened recently in the context of discussing 'Hamburger Helper'. I was watching an American T.V. show with a friend when a box of the 1980s instant cooking mixture was shown.

"What is 'Hamburger Helper' anyway?" she asked.

I tried to explain that it was a powder alongside dried noodles that you add to mince meat to make it into a different kind of dish.

"There are different flavors," I tried to explain the mysterious food, and it was much harder than I thought it would be. "I think there's an Italian one that's supposed to taste like lasagna."

She looked at me blankly.

"So what does it have to do with hamburgers?"

And then I realized the confusion. Americans often call ground beef (mince meat to Brits) hamburger meat, sometimes even shortening it to 'hamburger'. So a product that is marketed to Americans using the word 'hamburger' would also bring up connotations of the meat used to make a hamburger, as well as the completed sandwich itself.

Whereas to Brits, the word 'hamburger' means only one thing: the alleged main staple of the American diet.

By the by, whenever we do have a barbecue, guests are often shocked that I make my own burgers. They don't realize how easy it is. So here's another use of the phrase 'Hamburger Helper' -- it can refer to me if you want a lesson in how to make your own burgers from scratch.

Photo credit: slider bar madness : hamburger macro, upper market street, san francisco (2013) via photopin (license)

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