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In my mother-tongue, there's a word for it. I'm wondering what the English word is.

If potato chips come in contact with humid air (as in rainy days), they lose their crispiness, and become _____________.

Fill in the blank. Note that the chips are eatable and won't cause food poisoning. But neither are they wet because of contact with liquid water. They are just not crispy. In other words, if you take a potato chip and break it, it won't produce any sound of 'cracking'. It'd rather bend :)

I'm not looking for something like 'uncrispy' because it'll serve an all different purpose in this context.

To avoid confusion of chips or fries, this is the picture of what I mean chips here.

enter image description here

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"stale"; when the chips soak moisture – Manish Aug 5 '14 at 9:38
Stale does not mean harmful to eat. It means that it has become unpleasant to eat (but this is usually followed soon after by becoming harmful, so the confusion is understandable). "Stale" has roots in "Stand", in the sense of something that's been standing around for too long, like bread or potato chips. – Niall Aug 5 '14 at 11:13
Besides the answers of stale and soggy (which are both good but describe different things), chips can also become rancid (at which point they're inedible). – snailplane Aug 5 '14 at 12:07
Rancid is a very good word but is often misused. It shouldn't be used to describe the normal way that food goes bad (ie. through bacterial or fungal growth) but to describe when the fats in something have become oxidised. – Niall Aug 5 '14 at 12:26
I don't agree with using rancid here. As @Niall has pointed out, rancid has a different meaning when used with food items, like in your example itself- "rancid meat". It's origin is from the Latin word rancidus which means stinking. So this doesn't apply to bag of chips going soggy/stale/soft etc. Regardless, whatever suits you :) – Manish Aug 5 '14 at 13:15

11 Answers 11

up vote 69 down vote accepted

Soggy fits the bill I believe.

Saturated or sodden with moisture; soaked: soggy clothes.

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Just a data point (from California): If I am told something is soggy I expect a water to drip out if I squeeze hard enough. – Phil Aug 5 '14 at 16:27
Agreed, Phil. When my teen leaves the chip bag open, or bowl exposed to the air, they lose their crispness, but aren't wet. They are stale. – JoeTaxpayer Aug 5 '14 at 18:00
Soggy is possible for potato chips, but not likely. If they're deforming under their own weight from all the moisture I'd say soggy rather than stale. – Charles Aug 5 '14 at 19:02
Your quoted definition says "saturated or sodden" — which is probably much more extreme than the situation that the question asks to describe. – 200_success Aug 5 '14 at 19:25
@Phil I disagree. "Soggy" when applied to food doesn't normally mean dripping wet - just unpleasantly moist. It's perfect for potato chips that have been exposed to damp air. – David Wallace Aug 6 '14 at 4:56

The answer IS stale:

Stale adjective (staler, stalest)

  1. (of food) no longer fresh and pleasant to eat; hard, musty, or dry:
    'stale bread'

synonyms: dry, dried out, hard, hardened, old, past its best, past its sell-by date

Taken from the Oxford Dictionary of English and the Oxford Thesaurus of English.

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The synonym of "dry" for something purported to mean having "come into contact with air/moisture (as in rainy days)" concerns me – Richard Tingle Aug 5 '14 at 12:20
Please provide sources for your definitions. This one appears to be taken verbatim and without attribution from Oxford, which is likely to be considered plagiarism. – Esoteric Screen Name Aug 5 '14 at 15:47
While chips going stale may be from moisture in the air, if there's so much moisture that the chips bend instead of break, I'd describe that as soggy, not stale. Stale happens when bread, chips, etc. are exposed to air for too long. This soggy state doesn't happen with typical air, and requires more direct exposure to water. – Tim S. Aug 5 '14 at 18:04
@MaulikV Logical or not, "stale" is the common term for this phenomenon, even though it refers to something different when it comes to bread. If you Google "stale chips," you will find article after article telling you about how to dry them out. "Soggy" has much fewer of such results, mostly referring to french fries, but still seems to work. – trlkly Aug 7 '14 at 8:47
Also, to defend the definition given above, the word "musty" above also refers to being damp, even if the rest of the definition doesn't. Furthermore, a lot of other definitions refer to a lack of freshness and palatability without commenting on dryness. – trlkly Aug 7 '14 at 8:52

This is a somewhat technical answer. Hey, I'm an amateur cooking geek :-)

For a starch or starch-oil food (which includes bread, chips, french fries, etc.), there are several ways they become less palatable:

  • Soggy. This seems like what you're mainly describing. It's a change in the texture (how it feels) not so much how it tastes. If you dipped it in water, it'd become soggy. (Similarly, cereal left in milk too long becomes soggy).

  • Stale. This is a change in both taste and texture, and is a change to the starch. The texture (for bread at least) is normally drier. Put some bread in the fridge for a few days, and it'll be stale. (Note this can be mostly reversed by heating). In bread at least, it occurs fastest around fridge temperatures.

  • Rancid. This is the oil or fat oxidizing, so it can't happen without fat or oil. For things with a lot of oil, and once its well-progressed, you'll notice a very off odor that's normally described as "chemical" or even "paint thinner". This is also what, for example, limits the shelf life of whole wheat flour; the oils go rancid. This won't actually give you food poisoning, by the way.

  • Spoiled. There is mold, bacteria, etc. growing on it. It's no longer safe to eat it. Also, especially in extreme cases, rotten.

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I've also heard 'rancid' used more generically to mean 'really disgusting' - in fact, I didn't know the usage above until just now :) – Matt Lyons Aug 11 '14 at 4:53

From the Wikipedia entry on "Jaffa Cakes":

McVities defended its classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes at a VAT tribunal in 1991, against the ruling that Jaffa Cakes were biscuits ... The product was assessed on the following criteria: ... The product hardens when stale, in the manner of a cake.

The implication here is that while some things (e.g. cakes) harden when stale (presumably by losing moisture) while other things soften (e.g. biscuits) when stale (presumably by gaining moisture).

If the chips got directly rained on, then that would be "soggy", but if you left the bag open on a humid day, causing them to get a bit damp, that would be "stale".

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I recommend the simple contrast of soft if the environment is such that the chips lost their crispness much faster than normal. (Or, for humor value, you could refer to them as flaccid.)

Stale is also quite appropriate, as many others have pointed out: it is kind of a middle state where the food is no longer fresh, has lost some of its appeal and has degraded in some way, but is not yet harmful or inedible. Normally you would use this if the food has sat out for some extended period.

Soggy is a more drastic state that implies an excess of moisture, to the point that it may actually drip water, or at least will make your fingers damp if you hold it.

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Flaccid. Hehe. Strangely enough, I have rarely seen the word "flaccid" used in contexts other than that concerning genitalia. – LiveMynd Aug 5 '14 at 21:52

We've also got a word for that in my country's primary language. :D

From experience, I believe the English word you are looking for is "stale".

"Stale" seems to have the meaning "no longer pleasant to consume after being left in the open for too long". In which case, stale chips have lost their crispness, stale bread has become hard and dry, stale beer has lost its carbonation, stale coffee has oxidized and become sour and rancid.

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「煎餅はふやけた」と言いますか。 – Single Fighter Dec 10 '15 at 10:53

Mushy would be a good description. Merriam-Webster defines it as "soft and wet".

Soggy could also work, but I would say that it applies only when the chips are significantly saturated with water. If the chips are merely no longer crispy due to exposure to low levels of moisture, mushy would be a better word.

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They become damp.


moisture diffused through the air or a solid substance or condensed on a surface, typically with detrimental or unpleasant effects.

This isn't unique.

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Technically, your answer is valid, but I've never heard of damp potato chips. – J.R. Aug 7 '14 at 18:04
@J.R. I don't disagree with you at all. Stale usually means to me out long enough to spoil, but usually doesn't have to do with moisture, and soggy implies dripping with moisture. Neither of those work, though limp would be an adjective of uncrispy, which is explicitly not sought by the OP. – SrJoven Aug 7 '14 at 18:31
RE: Stale .. usually doesn't have to do with moisture – Perhaps, but moist air can hasten the staling process for chips. From eHow: Moisture is the culprit when discussing stale potato chips. The chips themselves are very dry. When chips are left open, air circulates into the bag. When the air comes into contact with the dry chip, the chip will soak up some of the moisture in the air. Stale chips are basically chips with too much moisture. I think stale is the word the O.P. was seeking. – J.R. Aug 8 '14 at 0:18

Given that it's come in contact with water, the word would not be "stale" which is when it becomes hard and dry but, as others have said, "soggy" or perhaps "sodden".

A stale chip will snap audibly, a soggy chip will bend and tear.

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I would say "gristly".

I am not an expert but for me the important part here is the feeling caused by air conditioned chips.

Not the relativity of product but the feel of that product.

Such as "crispiness".

Crispiness or crispness is the gustatory sensation of brittleness in the mouth, such that the food item shatters immediately upon mastication. Crispiness differs from crunchiness in that a crunchy food continues to provide its material sensation after a few chews. On the other hand, a crispy food quickly loses the 'taut' equilibrium of its material, such as a tightly wrapped sausage.

so we need to imply that it is certainly not crisp but something more flexible like gristly

n: cartilage, esp when in meat (Old English gristle)

adj: gristliness

what cartilage is:

Cartilage /ˈkɑrtɨlɨdʒ/ is a flexible connective tissue found in many areas in the bodies of humans and other animals, including the joints between bones, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the bronchial tubes and the intervertebral discs. It is not as hard and rigid as bone but is stiffer and less flexible than muscle.

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An interesting choice, but a word that is used almost exclusively for meat doesn't work well on potato chips. – Hellion Aug 6 '14 at 14:49
Just an idea. You know they both food and I am a straight man. lol – Berker Yüceer Aug 6 '14 at 14:58
@Hellion ah also forgot to mention in Turkey we got meat chips... – Berker Yüceer Aug 6 '14 at 15:01
"Gristly" doesn't work for potato chips. It refers to meat that is tough becaus it has a large fraction of gristle (connective tissue) in it. Or to people or animals that look like they've had a physically strenuous life. – The Photon Aug 8 '14 at 2:36
Since gristle is cartilage, gristly is just not going to work for potato chips! – ErikE Aug 8 '14 at 4:25

yielding, soft, spongy, limp, leathery

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These words are not synonyms and you've included no reasoning for why you think they are a good fit for this situation. Please add explanations and definitions. – Esoteric Screen Name Aug 6 '14 at 9:16

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