We received a great question from a viewer: What’s the difference between a plate and a dish in English? (In some languages there’s just one word.)

It’s not a simple answer because the meanings of words often overlap.

In this English lesson we explain when we say dish or plate and look at the features of:
– plates, dishes, cups, mugs and bowls
– different kinds of games

We show how the meanings of words can be fuzzy at the edges and it leads us to prototype theory in linguistics.

We draw on the work of two different writers:
– the philosopher Wittgenstein and his work on words that share a family resemblance
– the psychologist Eleanor Rosch and prototype theory

If you’re interested in this topic, another great book to read is ‘Words in the Mind’ by Jean Aitchison. She explores how we store words in our brain.

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48 Comments

  1. Lidi Soder Idiomas Reply

    Gosh, you guys are so entertaining! I love your videos! Thank you!

  2. Gábor Králik Reply

    People actually picked a dog, a bird and a piece of furniture? There's no such thing as doggiest dog or birdiest bird. You picked the most common bird in your countries, but what does commonness have to do with birdiness?

  3. Paulinho Caricaturas Reply

    It's amazing how a research about the differences between two words can provide us a lot more information than we were expecting to find!! Thank you! You have another subscriber!!

  4. If somebody asked me what is the doggiest dog or birdiest bird, I'd look at them like they were crazy.

  5. Sofie H. C. Smedegaard Reply

    game can also mean animals you hunt – like deer or pheasants….

  6. In Vietnam, we only have one word for dish & plate so I have to be conscious of my 'dish or plate' task when cooking with my Western friends. I prefer the way my mom often describes which food she gonna serve or the size of the dish/plate she wants. She's the expert of dish & plate and that was very helpful for me to pick the right one 🙂

    Last but not least, thank you for another wonderful video <3

  7. Elisheva K. Reply

    I think it's important to note that the word "dish" is also a general term for things we use to eat from and that's why we have "dishwashers".

  8. Martin Langby Reply

    Yep, an idea guys….. words spelt with ea & ee & i. BTW thanks for the great video content.

  9. Luís Eduardo Cople Reply

    Thanks for your vídeos!! I love the way you teach us, not natives! You are kind and I feel I am learning and also having fun!!

  10. Hi Jay, hi vikkie. Please could you tell us the difference between "get" and "be" for example, what is the difference between "get serious" and "be serious" ? love 😍 from Algeria.

  11. Unknown Person Reply

    My first language is English and Irish and I'm bloody confused

  12. cuiper indy Reply

    You forgot to mention that "game" could also be a hunted wild animal and/or its meat. It is of course clear the origin of the word: hunting wild animals for fun (as a game).

  13. Surveillance Reply

    8:13 yeap, sparrow is the most common bird in all Europe. and I was a lot surprised knowing about that from the man:-)
    P.S. but to me, American english is more understandable than British.

  14. TheRealTricky Reply

    When you ask people to name a random color, it might be possible that "red" is the answer you get most. Even from people who actually hate red. Then why does "red" always come to mind?

    To answer the bird question… I think of this one https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Huismus%2C_man.jpg/1920px-Huismus%2C_man.jpg
    Pretty odd, since I was raised in a family were we had birds for pets, first two zebra finches, later a canary and even later two parakeets. None of them fit the picture I linked to, do they?

    Now what I wonder (and some people I met really got into issues with that), is this… Is today 21st of September, or is it September 21st? (I know the former is UK and the latter is US, but some people around me refuse to believe me).

    Now a rule that I don't remember how it works but I've been using it without thinking, and I actually hope I did it right in this very sentence in which the rule applies.
    When to say:
    – I did that
    – I have done that
    – I was doing that
    – I have been doing that
    My English teacher explained that rule with a silly conference table and impressed that we should remember table, as people memorize nonsensical information more easily than factual information. Well that showed, as I remember that conference table, but I don't remember the rule, and I hope I used it right all the time, or must I say I hope I've been using it right all the time…. The latter feels better for me, but that's a feeling, not rational thinking 😉

    Well I will now tell you some lack of logic about Dutch. The word "ijskast" literally means "ice cabinet". Now what do you think it is… a fridge or a freezer? Since it contains the word "ice" you'd say the latter, but it is in fact the former. But then again a "Walvis" contains the word "vis" (fish) but it's in fact not a fish, but a mammal. Now at least a "walvis" looks like an oversized fish (as it means "whale"), but the English jellyfish????

    Did you know that the French word "mannequin", which is also common in English comes from Dutch…. Flemish to be more precise (which is what they speak in Belgium) and comes from the word "manneken" meaning "little man". That is not what "mannequin" means these days, does it? Maybe it could be nice to get some words English copied from other languages (via an other language or directly), but which have a different meaning in English than they originally had in the language the words were "stolen" from 😉
    (I can give you one in Dutch. "Ordinair" is copied into Dutch from French meaning "normal" or "ordinary". In Dutch it means "vulgar" now, and yes the word was copied from French originally, but it got a completely different meaning now).

  15. Lol 😂 Vicki it was like you were confusing Jay to confuse yourself. In other words you were trying to confuse Jay but he was trying to confuse you.

  16. Thinh Nguyen Duc Reply

    In 3:30, game is about competitive,skillful, and amusing. So answer this question:

    There is 1 game that appears in PC and board game. And what is it? If you have more than 1, let us know!

  17. Hi and thank you for a nice video! There may be something more than mere functionality or form that can explain the difference between a cup and a mug. To me mugs are more rustic and cups are more refined.

  18. nurettinbaygibi Reply

    English: Dish, plate, glass, cup,mug etc.
    Turkish: Tas.
    Only Turkish speakers will understand.

  19. I thoroughly enjoyed the section on plates, bowls, dishes and so forth! I feel you should have shown a *basin*, too, so that you could argue about when a basin is, or is not, a deep bowl… As you make clear, there are wide zones of overlap, and function as well as form plays a part. Incidentally, I would definitely call the tall, handled coffee-cup a mug, in spite of its curved profile.
    Can you imagine the endless debate we archaeologists have on precisely these points of terminology? And when we need to translate archaeological texts into or out of another language, it becomes even more of a challenge, because even in closely related languages like German, the (fuzzy) dividing lines between definitions may not fall quite where they do in English.

  20. Hi Vicky and Jay, I would like to request for a video that explains the "hidden z sound" in English. Recently, I realized the "z" sound exists even the word doesn't contain a "z", like "representative", "it's", dictionaries shows a "z" consonant instead of "s".

    Are there any roles to follow to get this? I guess this is an important sign to be sounded native.

    Thank you very much, I really like all the videos from you.

  21. Mahmoud Shawky Reply

    Thank you deeply and warmly
    from Egypt for your generous ,decent and out of the box videos

  22. Joiichi Oda Reply

    Gosh, we love you guys and the education you spread. THANK YOU ALWAYS. KEEP IT UP!

  23. Mariana Stefancikova Reply

    I think all birds have got feathers and a beak and they lay eggs. Greetings from Czech Republic. I love your videos soooo much!

  24. Vicki: So size doesn’t matter
    Jay: Well, size always matters
    Me:🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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