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Is paste a correct term to refer to mashed potatoes?

I heard it today from a non-native speaker from India and I was a bit surprised.

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, tchrist, TrevorD, Robusto, John Lawler Jul 26 '13 at 2:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    People love to downvote on this site. Don't let it faze you. @J.R. the question will not be adequately answered by consulting a dictionary; a good answer will explain why paste may or may not be appropriate in this collocation. – jlovegren Jul 24 '13 at 20:16
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    There's nothing wrong with asking, but I think you'll find this community more accepting of your question when you phrase it in a way that clearly indicates that you've done some research. If you don't tell us where you've looked, how do we know? And what prevents us from the same fruitless searches? Pretend you didn't write this question, and read it at face value: doesn't it seem like something you'd ask Siri? – J.R. Jul 24 '13 at 20:18
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    For God's sake, are you serious, J.R.? I won't ever write an essay in order to know such a stupid thing as the one I'm asking in this question. I simply thought that on this board, if somebody knows the answer, they reply. If they don't, probably because they are not native speakers, they can just let go. But don't worry, next time I don't have something so sophisticated to ask as to write 20 lines for it, I will ask elsewhere ;) – Ricky Robinson Jul 24 '13 at 20:29
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    20 lines? Who said anything about 20 lines? You asked "why the hell did somebody downgrade," and I offered a theory. All I said was, "There's no research." Maybe something as simple as, "I Googled slang for mashed potatoes, and I looked up paste in the Urban Dictionary, but I couldn't find anything. Still, I wanted to ask here..." would have warded off the downvotes. But why ask "What's wrong with the question" if you're going to complain about the answer? Sheesh. – J.R. Jul 24 '13 at 20:35
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    @Ricky I understand your consternation, but please understand ours, which is that this site is supposed to be about academic-level questions of English and its nuance. Every day we fight the flood of drive-by question-askers who treat the site like it is some kind of novelty forum and then shout abuse at us when we point them to the rules. If your question is so simple, it is not on-topic. If it is not so simple, you have to demonstrate why. If you don't want to do the research yourself first, try Yahoo Answers. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 24 '13 at 21:52
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Mashed potatoes may end up with a paste-like consistency if made poorly but no, I don't believe anyone has ever referred to the dish itself as "paste." Non-native speakers are probably not a great resource, but I can understand the usage. There is a spreadable nature to some pleasantly creamy mashed potatoes and some spreadable foodstuffs are marketed as "paste" - "shrimp paste" and "chili paste" spring readily to mind.

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    Oh ok. The thing is, the guy was Indian and was quite convinced about that term (I had to ask him to repeat a few times, as I had no clue what he was referring to!). I still have to understand to which extent an Indian person speaks correct English, but that doesn't have much to do with this question :) – Ricky Robinson Jul 24 '13 at 20:17
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    We used to call my mother's mashed potatoes "wallpaper paste." Not to her face, of course. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 24 '13 at 20:21
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    @KitFox: I think "paste" is a common metaphor for bad mashed potatoes. When I Googled "mashed potatoes like paste" I got several hundred results. I don't think paste is a synonym for mashed potatoes per se, but some might consider it slang for bad mashed potatoes. Somehow, it's not too hard for me to imagine a soldier in a mess tent saying "Meat loaf and paste for lunch again!" – J.R. Jul 24 '13 at 21:01
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    Ricky, that's probably just a feature of Indian English and that Indian chap just assumed that it's used in other forms of English, even though it's not. – Tristan Jul 24 '13 at 21:06
  • Wallpaper paste used to commonly be made from potatoes. Still is sometimes: google.com/… It's a very short hop from spreading potato paste on the back of your wallpaper to telling your maw how much you enjoyed the paste and gravy she made for dinner. – Wayfaring Stranger Jul 24 '13 at 21:48
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Is paste a correct term to refer to mashed potatoes?

No. There is no need to use the word paste. A quicker and common way to refer to mashed potatoes is the word mash http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/mash_2

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    I won't dispute that, however, the fact that another word may be more common doesn't preclude a different word from being used. The O.P. didn't ask for the most common term. – J.R. Jul 24 '13 at 21:05
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It might be your friend was thinking of

creamed potatoes (in the US) otherwise known as purea in Italy or maybe the French creamy potato dish Aligot. Now that's what I call "paste-like"!

Aligot

  • Southern Italy or southern England? – Mitch Jul 25 '13 at 10:59
  • I erroneously thought it was southern US style of mashed potatoes. But their preferred way of mashing is thick, almost dry-like. The complete opposite. Purea in Italy is nearly always creamed regardless of region. – Mari-Lou A Jul 25 '13 at 12:03
  • I'm still not sure who you are referring to when you say 'they', Italians or Americans. But in the US south, there are 'mashed potatoes' which are very lumpy, and 'creamed potatoes' which can be almost poured. As to the OP's word, 'paste' is not used as a label for the dish in US English as far as I am aware. – Mitch Jul 25 '13 at 15:01
  • My hypothesis is that the OP's Indian friend saw this dish and described it as being a "paste". In Indian cuisine, many of their curry/spicy sauces or blends are sold in paste form in glass jars. Just my hypothesis. – Mari-Lou A Jul 25 '13 at 15:05

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