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I was doing this CPE vocabulary test when I came across the following sentence:

"If you say you'd like _______ of cream on your strawberries then you don't want very much cream."

• a dash
• oodles
• lashings
• a dollop

According to the key, "a dash" is the right answer. Why not a dollop, though? Evidently, it exists as a structure.

Here are the Camridge Dictionary definitions:

Dash – a small amount of something, especially liquid food, that is added to something else. Dollop – a small amount of something soft, especially food.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 5, 2018 at 7:41
  • I also got this question wrong. I picked dollop. Maybe dash is less than a dollop, I don't really know, but I associate "dash" with salt and spices and maybe liquids. A semi-solid cream I'd definitely use "dollop" though. Either way I failed.
    – Zebrafish
    Jan 20, 2019 at 11:30

4 Answers 4

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These are not precise measurements, so any answer will be subjective. First, I believe your title is incorrect -- this sentence is not referring to ice cream but (liquid) cream instead. The former is a frozen, generally solid dessert while the latter is a thick liquid.

So, in my mind, a dollop is like a heaping tablespoon of something while a dash is a few drops, much like the amount of hot sauce one might use if one didn't like spicy food. (This site defines a dash as 1/8 teaspoon.)

So, if you're putting cream on your berries, a dash isn't berry, er, I mean very much whereas a dollop makes more sense.

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    Strawberries aren't berries. #pedantry +1 Aug 3, 2018 at 17:58
  • @Inoutguttiwutts -- fair point. In my defense, I typed all that and got to the end and forgot what the example was. I'm senile like that. 8^) Aug 3, 2018 at 18:15
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    Of course not. Strawberries go on ice cream, not the other way around. 8^) Aug 3, 2018 at 18:22
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    But if the cream is whipped, clotted or thick double cream then "dollop" is the much better answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 3, 2018 at 19:57
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    So the image of the heaped teaspoon, which you posted in a link, is showing that a dollop is a reasonable amount? What constitutes a "reasonable" amount is very subjective. I'd still call that a small amount because it's in a teaspoon! Definitely not a dash though
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 3, 2018 at 20:54
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Note that the Oxford Dictionary directly contradicts the Cambridge, defining "dollop" as "A large, shapeless mass of something, especially soft food." (my emphasis). https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dollop

This corresponds to my idea of the meaning, as a native British English speaker, and obviously makes "dollop" the wrong answer in the OP's example.

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  • Not quite sure why this is getting downvoted when it seems to be clearly the best answer: directly addresses the question, with a good citation
    – Nye
    Aug 4, 2018 at 10:02
  • A dash of milk in a cup of tea is fine, a dash of cream in coffee is fine also, but a dash of cream on strawberries, it's far too little for my liking :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 4, 2018 at 10:20
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    I didn't downvote, but possibly part of the problem is that ODO's own examples don't support that definition very well. All of the quotes that clearly mean a large amount are in the plural and/or use an adjective to specify size, as in the very first example ‘great dollops of cream’. The first "figurative" quote pretty clearly is using "a dollop" to mean something small: 'a dollop of romance here and there’ sounds much less than swoonily romantic. (On further examination, it appears that no one has downvoted, actually, @Nye.)
    – 1006a
    Aug 4, 2018 at 10:50
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    @Nye No one has downvoted this answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 4, 2018 at 14:59
  • I agree dollop isn't ideal for "not very much" if you only have a few berries—though it would be reasonable for a a higher quantity—but as an American "a dash of cream" seems very wrong. You can add a dash of salt or a dash of bitters, but for cream you'd use a splash (if liquid), a dollop, or a dab (if whipped).
    – Kevin
    Aug 4, 2018 at 21:39
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A dash is two things, it is the action and it is the result of that action. Dash is an old word meaning a short, rapid action, used in sentences such as 'He dashed the plates off the table', meaning he violently swept them to the floor. With a liquid in a bottle, such as a vinegar bottle or a sauce bottle, the action of the rapid shake to dispense some of the contents was also a dash. What came out was also called a dash, meaning 'the amount dispensed by a dash of the bottle'.

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Dollop is definitely a reasonable answer if you want less than a "normal" amount of cream on your strawberries, especially compared to "oodles" or "lashings" (which both imply you want a lot more than would be normal).

A dash is a reasonable amount for hot sauce, a spice, or maybe sugar with strawberries.

But for cream + strawberries, a dash would be too little and maybe nearly pointless. You'd barely taste it, like maybe be enough to get a few of them damp. That seems nearly pointless to me; if you don't like cream then just ask to not have any, but I'm lucky that I don't have to mess around with tiny servings to stay healthy. Maybe you could get some flavour out of a dash of cream on a couple strawberries. (And I like milk, cream, and dairy in general, so maybe I'm just having a hard time imagining liking only a small amount of cream more.)

Of course, given that we're talking about cream, you'd probably end up with an amount at the lower end of what's reasonable, rather than any specific quantity like 1/8th of a teaspoon. i.e. "a dash of cream" will be lot more volume than "a dash of hot sauce" when you're talking to another human, not a robot strictly applying a definition of a dash.

So on second though, a dash is a reasonable answer, too.


A dollop could definitely imply you want less than is normally served, but it's pretty subjective so you'd probably want to say "only a dollop" to get about enough cream to get the strawberries wet but not have much excess liquid in your bowl.


This answer doesn't really have a strong point one way or the other, but hopefully it gives some insight into the subjective implications of the words. Or makes you want some berries + cream. Going to get some now (blueberries + raspberries).

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