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Post Reply Is calling cakes and other baked goods 'sweets' an American thing or a Japanese thing?
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Posted 11/16/16
This might seem like an odd question and I don't know if it really needs its own forum thread but it's been bothering me for ages and I didn't know where else to ask the question (where I might actually get an answer).

So I grew up in England (to English parents), and so unless I lived under a rock for significant portions of my life, I'm fairly certain this isn't an English (or generally British) thing.

A while back I started noticing how in anime, the subtitles would often refer to cakes or other sugary baked goods as 'sweets'. For a while, I just presumed this was a Japanese thing (i.e. I presumed they had one word for all sugary food, which translators just directly translated as 'sweets', the most inclusive available English term).

However, recently I just started thinking about how this probably isn't the case, considering how subtitlers (particularly the ones employed by Crunchyroll) usually translate things so they make the most sense in English, rather than for their literal meaning.

Also I had the sudden realisation the other day that what are called 'sweets' in (South) England (and presumably the rest of Britain, though knowing the strange terms that come out of certain areas in the North, I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't the case) are referred to as 'candy' in the US.

So, basically, is referring to cakes etc. as 'sweets' an American or a Japanese thing?
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26 / F / New Jersey, USA
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Posted 11/16/16
I always thought it was an international thing.
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Posted 11/16/16
We don't call cakes or other baked goods sweets or candies in America, at least I don't and haven't heard anyone around me doing it.

I call cakes or baked goods dessert when I don't know their original name (like fritter or churros, the first time I saw them I was like "whats that thing? I want dessert so let me have that please" XD)
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Posted 11/16/16

qualeshia3 wrote:

I always thought it was an international thing.


Well, I mean I'm pretty sure it's not an English thing, though as I said before it's fairly possible they are called sweets in certain areas of the North and Midlands, possibly also Scotland / Wales. I don't know what the case is in Australia and New Zealand.

As for other places with English-speaking people that aren't 'English-speaking nations', you have to remember I guess that most places teach American English...


thatgirl202 wrote:

We don't call cakes or other baked goods sweets or candies in America, at least I don't and haven't heard anyone around me doing it.

I call cakes or baked goods dessert when I don't know their original name (like fritter or churros, the first time I saw them I was like "whats that thing? I want dessert so let me have that please" XD)


Ah fair enough. Maybe it's a regional thing within the States?
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26 / F / New Jersey, USA
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Posted 11/16/16

TheDustyForest wrote:


qualeshia3 wrote:

I always thought it was an international thing.


Well, I mean I'm pretty sure it's not an English thing, though as I said before it's fairly possible they are called sweets in certain areas of the North and Midlands, possibly also Scotland / Wales. I don't know what the case is in Australia and New Zealand.

As for other places with English-speaking people that aren't 'English-speaking nations', you have to remember I guess that most places teach American English...


thatgirl202 wrote:

We don't call cakes or other baked goods sweets or candies in America, at least I don't and haven't heard anyone around me doing it.

I call cakes or baked goods dessert when I don't know their original name (like fritter or churros, the first time I saw them I was like "whats that thing? I want dessert so let me have that please" XD)


Ah fair enough. Maybe it's a regional thing within the States?



Alright then. My mistake.
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Posted 11/16/16

qualeshia3 wrote:




Alright then. My mistake.


Haha no worries, thanks for the input either way
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Posted 11/16/16
I just call it by its name
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Posted 11/16/16

redokami wrote:

I just call it by its name


Hmm. Clearly this is more complex than I thought. I suppose it was foolish of me not to take regional differences across the US into consideration.
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Posted 11/16/16
I don't know if it's a regional thing or not, but I heard 'sweets' used as a broad term for baked goods, etc.
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20 / F / Sweden
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Posted 11/16/16
i call them sweets idk??
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24 / F / Johnstown, PA, USA
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Posted 11/16/16
International, though the usage nowadays leans more towards being a Japanese thing, as opposed to American. It's fairly archaic to refer to the foods as "sweets," at least, in the USA.
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Posted 11/16/16

TheDustyForest wrote:


redokami wrote:

I just call it by its name


Hmm. Clearly this is more complex than I thought. I suppose it was foolish of me not to take regional differences across the US into consideration.


In the part of America I live in we call them sweets, nearly everyone I know would refer to them that way. We only would call them desserts if we wanted them specifically after a meal. I think it's a regional international thing and not just an American or Japanese thing (although there is a lot of regional variation in the US just by itself).
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52 / M / In
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Posted 11/16/16
A cake by any other name is still not as good as pie
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23 / F / North
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Posted 11/16/16

thatgirl202 wrote:

I call cakes or baked goods dessert


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Posted 11/16/16

demondog89 wrote:

In the part of America I live in we call them sweets, nearly everyone I know would refer to them that way. We only would call them desserts if we wanted them specifically after a meal. I think it's a regional international thing and not just an American or Japanese thing (although there is a lot of regional variation in the US just by itself).


Yeah it makes more sense to me for them to be called sweets, as you say calling something dessert just seems odd unless you were specifically eating it as dessert.

If it is more of an international thing, I stand by what I said before in that I think it has a lot to do with most people who learn English as their second language learn American English. Having said that, the regional differences across the US that I somehow overlooked lead me to believe that the kind of 'American English' taught in other countries is less 'American English' and more of an 'International English' that just so happens to be taught with an American accent (whether by teacher, audio accompaniment etc.).

It's probably based on whatever is considered the 'official' American accent if there is one (like New York or Washington DC? I don't know I'm not very good at US geography to be honest), like how Received Pronunciation is taken as the 'official' accent of the UK even though hardly anyone actually speaks like that.
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