People all over the world have different words or phrases for the same places, actions and foods. In the United States alone, there are multiple phrases and words to describe sweet, carbonated drinks. Here in the Midwest, people strictly refer to the drink as "pop", while other regions claim the drink to be "soda", "soda pop" or "Coke" regardless if the drink is a Coca-cola or not (south: I am looking at you, what is this nonsense?). So I understand that there would be different words to describe one's third meal of the day.

Most of the United States seems to be on board with eating the first meal of the day within a few hours of waking up and calling it "breakfast". Breakfast is then followed by a meal in the middle of the day called "lunch". But, regarding the third meal of the day, many have pointed to say I stray from the norm. While many call this meal "dinner", I say "supper". 

Growing Up, It Was Supper

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Katie Kasperson

When I was little, we often called the third meal supper. My siblings and I would get home from school, my parents would cook, put the meal on the table, and tell us to come and eat supper. If my family was to gather for a homemade meal, we ate supper at suppertime. However, if we went out for a special dinner (to a nice restaurant), we were then having dinner. Or, if it was a holiday, we could have Thanksgiving leftovers for supper on Black Friday, but on turkey day, you eat Thanksgiving dinner. So the location and preparation of the meal played a factor. 

My friends from my hometown spoke the same way too. "No I can't go to the park right now, my mom wants me home for supper". This is what I have known since I was little; it just makes sense to me. 

It wasn't until I was at college that people started asking me what the heck I was talking about.

The Origin of "Dinner"

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Katie Kasperson

In exploring the modern American ritual of "fourth meal" (a late-night snacking term made popular by companies like Taco Bell ), historians at NPR explored the meals Americans have eaten over the years. 

According to their research with food historians from Michigan State University, dinner often referred to the largest meal of the day. It just so happened to be eaten in the middle of the day in many places. Many Americans in previous generations would have breakfast, dinner and supper rather than any "lunchtime".  

The Origin of "Supper"

According to Merriam Webster, supper is defined as a light meal for the evening, usually following dinner. The term supper has European roots in both Germany and France; both referring to a light meal late in the evening. In searching for the origins of the American use of supper, NPR found that the 18th and 19th century Southern and Midwestern Americans adopted supper in their vocabulary. These are two regions of the United States that relied heavily on agriculture to support their economy in the 1800's and 1900's.

Country Living writers recall their parents and grandparents eating dinner in the middle of the day to fuel themselves for the long afternoons of working on farms. Then in the evening, before heading to bed, a light, third meal of the day would be called "supper". 

What Changed?

According to the modern definition of Merriam Webster, dinner refers to the "principle meal of the day". Often, dinner is now eaten for the third meal in America, and dinner is typically the largest meal. Lunch is a relatively new term in American culture, and refers to a light meal eaten in the middle of the day. 

So, what exactly changed? Well, kind of everything. Americans no longer rely on agriculture to sustain the economy. An overwhelming amount of the general population have office  and day jobs, where a large meal in the middle of the day cannot be prepared, nor is it necessary. 

I would argue while supper and dinner are often used interchangeably in modern American culture, there is a generational divide in using supper. I find that my older relatives, who knew the days of farming in Midwestern America, still use "supper" when referring to the third meal of the day.

So Now: Supper or Dinner?

I think that either can be used and Americans should understand that I am speaking of the third meal of the day. On a ~very official~ Instagram poll, I found that just over half of my followers prefer using supper to dinner. However, my followers consist of a fun mix of people from cities (thank you, college) and rural communities (children or grandchildren of farmers, or farmers themselves!), like my hometown. 

Personally, my third meal of the day is supper, but send Spoon Ohio University your thoughts @Spoon_OhioU.