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Kitchen implement

27 April 2008

There has been some discussion on the alt.usage.english newsgroup about the proper name for this kitchen implement.

I call it an “egg lifter”, but I haven’t always called it that, and don’t remember what I used to call it before.

I checked with my wife, and she said she also calls it an “egg lifter”, but her mother used to call it a “fish slice”.

I don’t really care very much about what they are called. What concerns me is that you can’t get them any more, at least not the design shown in the picture. The new ones all seem to have fat plastic blades rather than thin metal ones, and they also tend to have shorter and wider blades. Our two are getting a bit old, and we keep looking for replacements, but not finding any. We had a fat plastic one before, and it wasn’t much use for frying eggs. It usually broke them.

Anyway, it might be interesting to know what other people call them. Americans on alt.usage.english seemed to call them “spatulas”, but to me a spatula is something used for scraping out dough, and usually with a thin plastic or a wooden blade.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Kyralessa permalink
    27 April 2008 5:54 pm

    My first instinct (as an American) was indeed “spatula”, but when I thought about it a bit more, I realized that “spatula” is that dough-scraping thing. But maybe they’re both spatulas; maybe “spatula” just denotes “thing that separates food stuck to its container.” When I search for spatula on Google Image Search, a lot of the results look like your picture.

  2. 27 April 2008 6:47 pm

    I would call it a fish slice. I hadn’t really thought about the thin metal ones not being available any more, but you’re right. We have a fairly elderly one, but haven’t used it for ages. I think the modern ones are plastic because most frying pans are non-stick, and a metal one would scratch a non-stick frying pan. We have three or four of the fatter plastic fish slices; they were freebies with something at the supermarket years ago, and seem to have lasted well in our household. One did get destroyed when it was left too long in a hot pan, but the others are fine.

  3. 27 April 2008 10:44 pm

    Hello! I’m new to you, and I trotted over here out of curiosity, thanks to that new “possibly related posts” stuff WordPress has recently started.
    I, too, a mostly American kid, would call that a “spatula”, but I know I used to call it something else. Of course, now I can’t remember what I used to call it, but spatula never quite seemed right to me for the very same reasons you mention.
    You did say you care less about its name and more about its availability in the metallic form. Now I’m wondering, too. Off I go to see whether I can find one here in Tokyo, but before I go, I’m going to see what other fascinating topics you’ve written about.

  4. sol permalink
    27 April 2008 11:57 pm

    My British wife calls it a fish slice, and as an American I call it a spatula. This seems to be a fairly uniform difference between British and American English.

    The one we principally use is metal with an bare, uninsulated handle. Our frying pan is not non-stick.

  5. 28 April 2008 6:36 am

    Like the other American commenters, I call it a spatula. I also call the dough-scraping thing a spatula. It seems like there’s another term I have used for this object, but I can’t think of it at the moment.

  6. 28 April 2008 4:10 pm

    I call your thing, which I have only found either used or plastic (I go for used) a “spatula” (I’m American), but I call the dough-scraping thing a “scraper.”

  7. 28 April 2008 5:07 pm

    I’m a U.S. citizen and 32, and I’ve always known this to be a spatula. I also call the dough-scraper a spatula.

  8. 29 April 2008 6:44 am

    I’m not American- I was raised in England – and I call it a spatula. Interesting.
    Anyway, I commiserate. We hunted high and low for the proper metal deal, and finally found one in the Pick n Pay at Princess Crossing.

    Terri in Joburg

  9. 29 April 2008 11:27 am

    I’ll cast another American vote for “spatula.” To me as well the thing in the picture and the dough scraper you describe are both spatulas, so the spatula category may be larger in America.

  10. 1 May 2008 3:28 am

    We call them spatula’s in Australia too. Well at least in Sydney were I come from. Never really asked someone from another state.

  11. bolesjae permalink
    26 February 2009 6:40 am

    I am from Jamaica and can vividly recall (I think) my mother calling that utensil an egg-lifter. I was just washing one made of plastic and commented that “these egg-lifters are different from the old ones”. My English roomate said I am the only person she had ever heard calling it an egg-lifter which sent me in search of the internet where I found your comments.

  12. DEREK CHANNELL permalink
    27 September 2009 6:52 pm


    What an intersting debate and one I am so pleased to have brought to my attention by my son. He knows only too well the grief I suffered for many years from my wife for daring to refer to this implement as an egg lifter. My mother (from South Africa) always referred to it in this way and I therefore continued to use this name when I married. My wife stood with dropped jaw the first time she heard me use the term and very quickly informed me it was a fish slice. We had many discussions on the topic and I would continue to use the term ‘egg lifter’ just to wind her up. I did however always believe she was right with the name she used and that I was just an ill informed lunatic. Great to hear others out there also used the ‘correct’ term for this much maligned cooking utensil

  13. 25 October 2009 5:36 pm

    Hmmm… Spatula seems profoundly American, I am “Cheifly British!” My Mum called this a Fish Slice and the shorter version an Egg Slice (which I believe to be an equivocal of egg lifter).


    • noun, an implement with a broad, flat, blunt blade, used especially for mixing or spreading.

    — ORIGIN Latin, from spathula ‘small spathe’.
    Source: English Oxford Dictionary.

  14. Carin permalink
    16 April 2010 11:14 am

    My boyfriend (American) laughs at me and then goes to great lengths to correct me when I (South African) call this implement an ‘egg lifter’. I am thrilled to have found this very amusing thread and am sending it to him to add to our vocabulary debate. You should see us arguing about hail and sleet. Happy egg lifting, y’all.

  15. Ken permalink
    6 January 2013 9:58 pm

    I used to call this thing an egg lifter when i was a young boy however someone corrected me years ago that i should call it an egg slice………..this is always a debateable point in our household …….me……egg slice others…….lifter

  16. Deborah permalink
    7 January 2014 11:20 am

    My partner and I are in hot debate over what this common kitchen utensil is called. I am British and call it a fish slice. My partner is an Australian and calls it an egg lifter. Given the Australian language heralded from the British language, I am confident in being right on this issue. However I understand that if you can’t afford fish in the Aussie outback you might use it for eggs. Seems this is the name used in South America also. I will now try to identify his true ancestry. Perhaps it is more colourful than first thought.

  17. NKeeny permalink
    3 April 2014 7:45 pm

    Spatula and egg lifter in RSA. I used to call it an egg lifter as a kid, but I’ve progressed to spatula over the years. We also call the “cake dough scraper” a spatula. Spatula is a general name for anything flat – usually metal or plastic – that is used for scraping and lifting.

  18. Beccy permalink
    25 April 2014 2:45 pm

    I’m South African with a mother from the UK. I call it an egg-lifter. My ex (South African with South African mother) calls it at spatula. I used the word spatula for the scraper thing when baking. I’ve never heard it called a fish slice, will have to ask my mother about that!

  19. Rennie permalink
    14 April 2015 6:55 am

    My South African wife with an English mum calls it an egg lifter. My English daughter with the same South African mum and English granny calls it a spatula. I have a Scottish mum and I call it a spatula or a fish slice. None of these terms seems quite appropriate to me. How about “pan turner”?

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