In ordinary speech, when I say “iced tea” it comes out sounding virtually identical to “ice tea.” That’s because of the two consecutive dental consonants, the voiced D followed immediately by the unvoiced T.

Mind you, I am thinking of the D.

That’s speech.  Writing is different.  Different is good.  Right?

In writing, I would never use any form other than “iced tea.”

By this I mean the leaves of Camellia sinensis, steeped in hot water, and chilled with ice.  Perhaps I add sugar, lemon, lemonade (an “Arnold Palmer”), mint or even a rose from the garden.  Perhaps I might use other plants in lieu of tea.  It’s still tea that’s been iced.

Perhaps the regional names for the drink, like “cold tea” or “sweet tea,” are less controversial. Let’s wait for cole tea and swee tea to appear on Twitbook.

However, I learned “iced tea” and continue to find it appropriate and correct.

So–the all-knowing may ask me–what about “ice cream”?  Why don’t I insist on saying “iced cream,” in the manner of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons?

Because the earliest printed reference is to “ice cream,” and “iced cream” only ever appeared sporadically, and hardly at all after the end of the 17th century.

The earliest cookbooks I can find online refer to “ice cream” or “ice-cream.”

So for whatever reason exactly, and despite that there is no difficulty pronouncing the D, we have always said ice cream.

A larger trend is in play, where people write what they hear, and are neither good listeners nor good thinkers, if they even speak English fluently.

So we get analogous corruptions to “ice tea”:  corn beef, can goods, whip cream, old fashion, etc.  If you whip the cream, you get whipped cream.  If you can the goods, you get canned goods.  If you were in some way fashioned (shaped, formed, made, influenced) in an “old” way, you are old fashioned.  (Or old-fangled or oldfangled, which is an old-fashioned way to say old-fashioned.)

What about “roast beef”?  Shouldn’t that be “roasted beef”?  No.

In English, we consider roast to be a noun, verb, and adjective.  We buy a roast at the supermarket, and once we’ve roasted it, it’s roast beef.

We don’t, however, serve “grill hot dogs.” They are grilled hot dogs. The word grill only refers to the cooking device or the act of grilling–usually, to put sear lines on the meat and impart a pleasant flavor and texture by means of charcoal or another fuel.

Yum.  Where was I?

It’s a false consistency to plead that “if roast can do all of that, why not other words?” Because they can’t.  English isn’t Esperanto.

If you want to argue about English, take a good look at the absurdities and inconsistencies of other languages first.

And then, please remember that you are only one voice in a chorus, and you don’t necessarily get to edit the lyrics to your personal taste.

About Jonathan B. Hall

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food. Cat lover, too.
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