Man’s ability to create and use language is considered by many something that sets him apart from the animals. Recently I’ve come across a few examples of language that makes me think that maybe we aren’t quite so different from the beasts as we think we are.
At the San Joaquin County Law Library, there is an encyclopedic set of books that gives the definitions of legal words and phrases. Each book runs the gamut of a certain letter of the alphabet like “Nephew to Nystamgus” (don’t ask me what that is – I didn’t look it up). On the spine of Volume 42 it read, “Total to Trash” except that the “to” was a smaller type face making the title of the book look like “Total Trash.
My famiIy and I recently took a trip to Oregon for my niece’s wedding. We took a route that we hadn’t taken before, U.S. Route 97, which runs through the north central part of the California, Oregon and Washington and all the way to the Canadian border. On the California side, just a few miles before the Oregon border, the road winds through the small town of Dorris (pop. 1,000, though it looks more like 100). We saw a sign for a restaurant called the Bar 40 Grill. At the bottom of the sign smaller letters read: “We now serve good food.” It begs the question what kind of food did they serve before? The parking lot was empty and the place looked like it was out of business. I guess the good food was too little, too late.
A few weeks ago I got one of those prepackaged salads for lunch at the grocery store. I needed a salad dressing so I quickly grabbed a bottle of Wishbone Thousand Island. Getting back to the office I notice that the label on the bottle’s neck proudly read: “20% less plastic.” I know it meant that the bottle was now smaller and more “green”, but I couldn’t help but think of what was in the rest of the remaining 80%.
When my wife makes spaghetti, she makes the sauce mostly from scratch. When it’s my turn, it comes from a bottle. Recently I tried a new sauce by Barilla. “Italy’s #1 brand of pasta sauce” the label reads. The label also identifies it as their traditional marinara sauce, but included a tag that says: “new recipe.” I guess traditions aren’t what they used to be.