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I have found little consistent in how animal parts used as food are named. How can I correctly refer to the tongue of ducks, the necks of ducks, or the ears of pigs?

Do you like duck's neck?

Do you like duck necks?

Do you like ducks' necks?

Is there a way which is most "correct" or formal?

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Just duck neck, beef liver, pork belly. – Mitch Jun 27 '13 at 10:43

As you yourself note, it is animal parts, not *animals’ parts. That’s because we use the creature’s name as an attributive noun not as a possessive one.

People therefore eat duck eggs, crab claws, shark fins, lobster tail, fish heads, frog legs, hog jowls, pig lips, rabbit shanks, calf testicles, whale blubber, dog legs, salmon roe, turkey breasts, lamb loin, ox tail, goose liver, beef shoulder, monkey brains, and chicken hearts.

They do not eat *ducks’ eggs, *crabs’ claws, *sharks’ fins, *lobsters’ tails, *fishes’ heads, *frogs’ legs, *pigs’ lips, *hogs’ jowls, *rabbits’ shanks, *calves’ testicles, *whales’ blubber, *dogs’ legs, *salmons’ roe, *turkeys’ breasts, *lambs’ loins, *oxen’s tails, *geese’s liver, *beeves’ shoulders, *monkeys’ brains, or *chickens’ hearts.

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nGram is not quite agreeing here. I know nGram should not be taken as gospel, but there are a lot of pig's feet in there books.google.com/ngrams/… – mplungjan Jun 27 '13 at 12:16
@mplungjan Fixed. :) – tchrist Jun 27 '13 at 12:24
Not sure what the idea is with the ** .... * – mplungjan Jun 27 '13 at 12:33
Certainly it's frogs' legs on this side of the Atlantic. It may be different further away from France! [ And @mplungjan, asterisks indicate something which incorrect. See notation ] – Andrew Leach Jun 27 '13 at 13:03
Ah, I thought it was a bulleted list or bold gone wrong since the markdown is ** somethung * in the source – mplungjan Jun 27 '13 at 13:49

Going by how dishes are referred to in other languages, I would treat the animal parts as a dish name in this instance. Duck's neck is the name of the dish, regardless of how many ducks died to make it. To refer to several necks belonging to several ducks is closer to veterinarian medicine.

So in a conversation, or at a restaurant, you might be asked "Would you like some duck's neck?" the same way you would be asked whether you would like some pork. The pork might be made up of several pigs, but in French - which is where the dish name comes from - they would not refer to it as "porcs" (pigs).

So the dish name would be singular. Duck's neck, cow's tongue, etc. If there are several dishes, for several people, then you might say "Two servings of duck's neck."

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But people eat frog legs and chicken wings. – bib Jun 27 '13 at 12:17
I don't think you can go by 'how dishes are referred to in other languages'. Otherwise we'd be eating 'hare pepper'. – Mitch Jun 27 '13 at 12:21
Touche >.> I know English borrows a lot of dish names from the French though, and the French style is mirrored by a lot of other languages via the Latin origin, which is why I applied their logic there. – Corina Jun 27 '13 at 12:37
As you correctly noted at the outset, Duck's neck is the name of the dish, not the body part. That makes this a non-answer. See also, the answer by tchrist. – Kris Jun 27 '13 at 14:49

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