I made an interesting discovery tonight, thanks to Wikipedia.
As long-term readers will know, I'm quite a keen cook. Tonight I made one of my "specials" - a boiled rice recipe with saffron, shallots, sweet red peppers, courgette, mushrooms and peeled prawns. Prawns are one of my favourite foodstuffs on the planet: king prawns especially. I could live off them.
Tonight, my girlfriend asked me what the difference was between a prawn and a shrimp, because in French, they just generally use the term "shrimp" (translated, obviously) for everything from tinned shrimp right up to (but not including) langoustine. Now, quite obviously, shrimp and prawns are from the same genus, but if you go into just about any supermarket in Britain today, "shrimp" are the tiny little crustaceans you get in cans, whilst "prawns" are everything else from peeled prawns to tiger prawns, crevettes and king prawns. So I thought that was all there was to it. Shrimp are the tiny ones, prawns are big ones.
But just to check, I take a look at Wikipedia. Well, blow me if it doesn't turn out that most "prawns" you get in supermarkets are in fact shrimp. The difference is all in the gill structure, apparently.
In fact, the terms have become so interchangeable, it seems that no-one but cetacean scientists can agree on what's a prawn and what's a shrimp. Nothing like clear, concise labelling, eh?