IS “JUMBO SHRIMP” AN OXYMORON?
Neither the term prawn nor the term shrimp are scientific names. Early forms of the vernacular word prawn appeared in England in the 15th century as prayne, praine or pane. The word shrimp appeared even earlier, in the 14th century, as the Middle English shrimpe or, in Middle Low German, schrempen or, in Old Norse, scorpna. The German word meant “to contract or wrinkle” and the Norse term meant “to shrivel,” which may have led to the application of the term shrimp to smaller species and the term prawn to larger forms.
Today the terms often are used interchangeably. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, “All in all the situation is quite confused and nowhere a sharp distinction seems to be made between shrimps and prawns. In general one can say that the larger… species that are commercially most attractive are called shrimps in America, and prawns in most of the rest of the English speaking world.”