Can anyone tell me why we say "roast chicken" instead of "roasted chicken" and then turn around and say "roasted vegetables"?
March 30, 2010 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone tell me why we say "roast chicken" instead of "roasted chicken" and then turn around and say "roasted vegetables"?
posted by markcmyers to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I say roasted chicken. Always have.
posted by raztaj at 10:33 AM on March 30, 2010

(this answer is totally coming out of no-where and I just thought it up, beware)

It might be that chicken is a single entity and vegetables are many entities. (a case of singular verses plural)

and I say both roast chicken and roasted chicken.
posted by royalsong at 10:36 AM on March 30, 2010

Yeah, I think this is a matter of six of one... half dozen of the other. If you check Google for "roast chicken" and "roasted chicken" the difference is 1.2m to 1.04m
posted by FlamingBore at 10:36 AM on March 30, 2010

But you would never say "roasted beef" in place of roast beef...
posted by dabug at 10:38 AM on March 30, 2010

I eat "roast chicken" and "roast vegetables" and sometimes "roast beast." I think I use "roasted" only as the past tense of "roast" - like "I roasted vegetables for a salad." When I am eating a thing that has been roasted, the adjective form I most often use seems to be "roast X."
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

My family and I don't say "roasted" at all. It's all "roast" whether chicken, beef, parsnips, onion or potatoes.
posted by Lorc at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2010

Maybe because it's meat? Roasted meat is sometimes referred to simply as "a roast" (more with beef and pork than with chicken, but maybe that's the origin of "roast meat").
posted by spinto at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2010

English is a weird, nonsensical language. Google Fight says "roasted chicken" beats "roast chicken".
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:41 AM on March 30, 2010

Because in addition to being a verb, "roast" is both a noun and an adjective. "To roast" something is to cook it, a "roast [x]" means an [x] which has been roasted, and "a roast" can mean either a particular cut of meat suitable for roasting or something that has been roasted, meat or otherwise.

So depending on how you want to use the word, it can mean either. There does not seem to be any dominant idiom to explain why one should use one more than the other, but I think the reason "roasted chicken" slightly beats out "roast chicken" is that a beef roast is a single, large piece of meat which we cut into individual pieces while a chicken, however cooked, is almost always eaten in serving-size pieces which are whole parts of the animal.
posted by valkyryn at 10:50 AM on March 30, 2010

Same reason you eat "toast" instead of toasted bread?
posted by mmf at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2010

Roast Singular, Roasted Plurals.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:11 AM on March 30, 2010

It's English weirdness, though I think it's partly down to the distinction between the raw and the cooked which goes back to Norman French (beef/cow, pork/pig, lamb/sheep, etc.). You don't roast "a beef" in the same way you roast a tomato, you roast beef and eat roast beef, and that becomes a kind of compound noun (hence les rosbifs in French). "Chicken" is anomalous to some extent, because the cooked version is also "chicken".

Follow-on: what's the distinction between "baked chicken" (which I hear quite often in the US, but never in Britain) and "roast chicken"?
posted by holgate at 11:22 AM on March 30, 2010

What's the distinction between "baked chicken" (which I hear quite often in the US, but never in Britain) and "roast chicken"?

Born and raised in Massachusetts here; I think of "baked chicken" as chicken pieces (possibly marinated and/or coated with breadcrumbs) cooked in one layer in a casserole dish or sheet pan, whereas "roast chicken" implies to me a whole chicken cooked intact and carved into servings afterward.
posted by letourneau at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2010

I hear "roast vegetables" pretty often in my neck of the woods. Never "roasted chicken", however.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:33 AM on March 30, 2010

I say 'roast vegetables'. Roasted only sounds right to me if it's used as verb: "I roasted a chicken last night." or "I roasted some winter vegetables tossed in olive oil for the supper."
posted by Kurichina at 12:27 PM on March 30, 2010

holgate is, I think, on the right track, especially since "roast" comes from Norman/French roots. Note that we've said "roast chicken" and "roast vegetables," etc., for a long time; "roast beef" dates at least to 1630. It seems to me, by the way, that the addition of the -ed at the end must have been an Anglicization by someone who was under the impression (as people often have been) that words must be regularized and 'fixed' to make them 'more English' when they enter the language. Also note from that link there that "roast" as a noun exists to the early 14th century. The noun form makes sense, I think, as a shortening of the common phrase using "roast" as a past participle: "roast beef," "pork roast," "rump roast," etc.

This is generally just a guess. This question could be answered definitively by someone who has access to the Oxford English Dictionary. I do not.
posted by koeselitz at 1:12 PM on March 30, 2010

My guess is it's something to do with the vagaries of "t/d deletion" as described in this Language Log article:

English speakers also tend to weaken or omit final coronal consonants, a process that linguists call t/d deletion: thus [lɛf] for left. Although t/d deletion is stigmatized, in fact all normal English speakers do it some of the time, at least in some contexts. As a result, fixed expressions that start out as participle+noun are sometimes re-analyzed so as to lose their -ed ending. This happened long ago to ice(d) cream, skim(med) milk, pop(ped) corn, wax(ed) paper, shave(d) ice, etc. It's happened more recently (I think) to ice(d) tea, cream(ed) corn, and whip(ped) cream.

I'm no linguist, though, and it's possible this is a separate phenomenon.
posted by col_pogo at 1:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Additional data point: here in Hawaii this phenomenon shows up in other places as well.
  • Only tourists ask for "shaved ice" -- locals know it's shave ice
  • When ordering plate lunch, you choose between mac and toss salad
  • many locals love li hing mui flavored crack seed

posted by lex mercatoria at 2:02 PM on March 30, 2010

And, believe it or not, there are supermarkets here in northern New Mexico where the aisle is marked "can vegetables" or "can fruit."
posted by markcmyers at 2:56 PM on March 30, 2010

My Midwestern relatives say "roastin' ears" for corn on the cob.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:29 PM on March 30, 2010

When I learned English, we were simply taught that, for food items especially, there was a tendency to drop the "-ed" from adjectives which come immediately before foods. This was especially true with "t/d deletion" adjectives, but there were other examples - the primary ones being "mash/ed potatoes" and "whip/ped cream." The explanation offered was simply that people simply pronounced them that way, and these pronunciations were carried into spelling.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:37 PM on March 30, 2010

col_pogo: “My guess is it's something to do with the vagaries of "t/d deletion"...”

But that's the odd thing; "roast beef" is attested far too early (1630) for that to be entirely likely, I think. Maybe I'm wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2010

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