Suppose I were to use the phrase ‘polysemous foodstuffs’. You might well be inclined to grow a beard and dreadlocks, grab a couple of placards and demonstrate outside my house. But such a phrase is in fact not especially ominous; it refers merely to the capacity of certain food-related nouns to designate more than one foodstuff. (I estimate that 73% of you will consider your day’s learning done at this point, and go and play Angry Birds or whatever the yoot do nowadays.)
Examples of polysemous foodstuffs (or ‘food-nouns’ as the pedants among you will carp. I know, I have an MPhil in Philosophy, which is basically Advanced Pedantry) include muffins and peas (or ‘muffins’ and ‘peas’ – see previous parenthetical clarification; henceforth such precision will be tossed aside for the sake of brevity and not being an arsehole). ‘Muffin’ can refer either to them bready, buttered ‘English’ affairs or them big, moist cakes. One needs to be careful: ordering a muffin for breakfast and receiving an F-off cake is a disconcerting experience. Unless you are American. Likewise with ‘pea’, which can refer either to peas (if you don’t live in Jamaica) or beans (if you do). If you order Rice and Peas in a Jamaican restaurant you will get rice and beans. That’s not to knock it – any true AFB aficionado will know the esteem in which we hold all things Caribbean – but it does mean that caution is required.
Now I said earlier that polysemous foodstuffs are ‘not especially ominous’. Now I need to add a qualifier: they are a bit ominous. Muffins and peas are fine, because, in each case, both of the things to which the foods refer are pleasant enough (albeit with a pleasantness dependent on context and expectation). But what if a polysemous food-noun refers to either of two foodstuffs, one of which is good and one of which is a bit wack? Does such a thing ever even happen? Is this real life or is this just fantasy? Is this just a stupid thought-experiment, like them runaway carts beloved of Analytic Philosophers? Anyone with such doubts will have their suspicions disconfirmed with a succinct piece of Popperian falsification:
That’s right. Pretzels, ladies and gentlemen.
You see, there are Good Pretzels and Bad Pretzels. Good Pretzels are the big, doughy ones. Bad Pretzels are the little, rock-hard ones. Good Pretzels are basically chewy, salty, funny-shaped bread (what’s not to like?); Bad Pretzels are like salty bits of brick.
I think overall I’m going to have to give pretzels a 4/10. You see, Good Pretzels are good, but they do not sail above their nearest competitors. In the chewy bread market many of their rivals do just as well – the aforementioned muffin, for example, or bagels, or chalah, a type of slightly sweet Jewish bread (what is it with Jews and chewy bread anyway? Some sort of conspiracy?). However, Bad Pretzels are bad in themselves (or bad-in-themselves as Heidegger might have said, if being a massive Nazi didn’t prevent him from eating them), yet they are truly, cataclysmically crap in comparison with their nearest competitors. For Bad Pretzels surely fall within the snack bracket, or ‘snacket’, and they have some mighty stiff competition: crisps, olives, Twiglets (overrated, in my opinion, but that is an article for another day), vol-au-vents – all of them violate Bad Pretzels like a scene out of Deliverance. If anyone chooses Bad Pretzels over any of these things, do not invite them back to your house.
This has been quite a journey. There’s a lot to chew over. Just make sure it is a Good Pretzel and not a Bad Pretzel.
PS, My AFB Co-Founder, the esteemed Gary From Leeds, has just informed me that I need to mention that pretzels look like turds.