When is a Chicken a Kitchen?

Well, never, of course. But these two words are quite often confused by English-language learners. It makes sense really. The two words obviously sound similar, and that’s particularly true for speakers of languages which don’t make such a distinction between the ch (/ʧ/) and k (/k/) sounds. And of course it’s logical to create an association between the two things: where else are you going to keep your chicken?

This mistake is just one of the many common mistakes learners make that are quite hard to imagine before you start teaching. And that’s why when you see English lessons on TV or in films, they’re never really like the real thing, and that goes for the mistakes students make. Of course they have to think of making entertaining work first, though I can imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to get a cheap laugh out of the chicken/kitchen confusion.

A similar mistake, confined mainly to Romance-Language speakers, is to say something like I love French kitchen. While this might sound odd to our ears, if you know that in French, Italian, and Spanish, the same word (cuisine/cucina/cocina) is used to mean both cooking and kitchen. And it does kind of make sense that the words would share the same meaning: where else are you going to do your cooking? And given that in these countries, cooking and eating have a more integral place in daily life than in most Anglophone countries (and much better food), it makes sense that cooking and the kitchen would be equated.

And we don’t deny that, though we’re catching up, we’ve not always had a great culinary culture in English-speaking countries. That’s probably why we use cuisine instead of cooking when we want to talk about good cooking. Or perhaps, if it’s really good, we’ll extend to haute cuisine (high cooking) or gourmet (gourmet). Doubtless that’s also because we like the sound of French.

Anyway, just some food for thought the next time you feel like some haute chicken.

19 thoughts on “When is a Chicken a Kitchen?

  1. I taught in China a few years back and some of the kids couldn’t say my name ‘Oliver’ so called me ‘Elephant’, quite quickly that’s what the whole school called me! Don’t know why but your post reminded me of that, great read as always

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! You win! That’s not at all what I thought chicken kitchen would be about. I even googled it, yotubed it thinking it was something colloquial. There are some interesting Irish cooking (cookery) videos. Just learned how to milk a cow. Yep, I am all ready for the eclipse and the apocalypse 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can see the similarities 😀 In Spanish we say, for instance: “me gusta la cocina argentina” , which translates to “I like the argentina kitchen”. The problem to many people is that they just “do a literal translation in their minds”… when they try to say or write something in another language… And that clearly doesn´t work well, at least it doesn´t most times. Excellent post Niall (A brief note to you: I still didn´t sign in my blog, hence I owe you the widget. Will do that soon, as I told you!)… Sending love & best wishes ⭐

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me gusta la cocina argentina indeed :). I still find myself translating directly into French sometimes, particularly when I accidentally tell people I’m dead instead of I’ve finished by saying “Je suis fini!” No rush with the widget, just happy you’re reading and enjoying it :).


  4. I forgot to mention in 2017, that there is a evident thing called “Kiek in de Kök” in old Germanic areas of Europe. I absolutely refused to believe it wasn’t a satyric attempt at saying “Kick in the cock” and am still suspicious.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s