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Things that keep me up at night

Not really. But still, I have to wonder about:

• Six-packs sold in my grocery store with labels identifying the product as a "flavored water beverage." What else would you do with flavored water besides drink it? Or, to put it another way, would you not drink it if the label didn't have the word "beverage" on it?

• Still in the grocery store, but in the dairy aisle: "Processed cheese food." As opposed to the processed cheese that's used for roof repairs? (Then again, maybe that's what processed cheese should be used for.)

• A roadside sign posted after highway crews have coated the roadway with tar, then covered with a layer of loose stones that are highway-rollered into the tar: "Loose gravel." If it weren't loose, it wouldn't be gravel, would it?

• Still at the side of the road: "Children at Play." Wouldn't "Children Playing" make the same point? Picture the scene: Mom goes out on the front porch and calls out to her young son, "Where are you?" Son replies, "I am at play, Mother."

• Still at the side of the road, but this time on the interstate: "Mowing Operations Ahead." This sounds like a particularly brutal form of surgery. Maybe the word "operations" helps clear up the confusion that would result from a sign that merely said "Mowing ahead."

This is just a little corner of my world. And sometimes I think I spend too much time in it.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 6th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
Oooh, I can help with your second bullet point, because I, too, pondered the wording on that package of "cheese food."

A few years ago, I asked the head of the dairy department at the grocery store why some slices were called "cheese food" while others were called "cheese."

He explained that it's to differentiate FAKE cheese (aka "cheese food") that's a bunch of processed chemicals from actual, you know, CHEESE that's FOOD.

So there ya go.
Oct. 6th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
Yep, it's the same with "chocolate-flavored candy," might sound redundant but it's because there are rules about how much cocoa something has to have in it to be called "chocolate," and if it doesn't meet that it has to be called "chocolate-flavor."
Oct. 6th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
Little loopholes that most people can't crawl through—or even see.
Oct. 6th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
I was thinking the word "processed" would have covered this, but that may be too fine a distinction for the Teeming Masses.
Oct. 6th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
The FDA is very strict about what food companies are allowed to put on their labels (as opposed to pet foods which can make any damnfool statement they want, aside from a handful of rules) - see also: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/default.htm

The companies want to present their food as Delicious And Nutritious Cheese Substance to the teeming masses (whether it is or isn't) while still avoiding the wrath of the guvmint, so they do all sorts of interesting linguistic contortions, also called "marketing".

Also, "loose gravel" as opposed to "a heap of gravel" or "fixed gravel" (which is more what a steamrollered tar-covered road full of gravel would be like, in my opinion). And I guess for "Children At Play"... small words for slow readers? As opposed to someone who sees "pxxxxxx" and can't be arsed to read the rest of the word before s/he blows by at 90 mph...
Oct. 7th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
I understand what's going on with nutritional labels, but as a society, we twist words to the point where they have no meaning or have the opposite meaning of what they intend. "Processed cheese food" is not cheese, but language loopholes let manufacturers and marketers and politicians say something that contracts their exact intents. This all is made possible by what Orwell calls the "slovenly" way we use words.
Oct. 11th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Personally, the "Men at Work" signs still tick me off. I'm always tempted to pull over when I see a woman with the men and ask her, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Oct. 12th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think the signs should say

or Chicks
at Work

Whaddya think?
Oct. 12th, 2012 03:05 am (UTC)
I was gonna go with

Men at work
Chicks nagging
Oct. 12th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Perfect! I'm glad to see we're both in agreement on using the word "chicks."

And while we're on this construction theme:

Q: What's blue and yellow and sleeps seven?
A. A state Department of Transportation work truck.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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