Logophily: Editing + Knowledge

On Christmas Eve, per usual, we went to eat dinner with family. We were supposed to bring drinks, but nobody told us.

I headed back to the closest grocery store to buy some sweet tea and soft drinks [1]. And while I was there, I found the shopping list pictured above [2].

I’m important to note that I’m not making fun of the writer of this list. The misspellings are common. Pedantry is worse than ignorance. Stop being dicks about grammar and spelling and punctuation.

HTML tutorial

Speaking of which, the title of the list is going to make the jerks among you wax wroth: grocery’s. It looks as though the apostrophe was marked out, if that’s any consolation [3].

The misspellings [4] are interesting, as are the groupings of groceries. Most of them are categorical: mustard/mayo [5], apples/bananas, potato salad/coleslaw [6]. But check out the next grouping:

Green beans/olive oil/slivered almonds. It’s a recipe. . . a nontraditional recipe for the writer, I think, based on the grouping, the ingredients, and the geographical region [7]. (Check out regular oil further down the list. . . it’s used for, y’know, regular cooking.) There are a few other recipe groupings, including the next one: turkey + turkey pan.

Eggs (2+3 dozen)- huh. I don’t know.

Raisen bran makes phonetic sense [8].

Soured cream (big one) + another can is an interesting entry. Soured is as accurate a descriptor as sour. . . the cream in question is soured on purpose. Maybe it’s dialectical. The old people say clabbered for milk that’s gone sour. Milk was allowed to clabber before skimming the cream for butter, apparently. It made the process easier. I’m also interested in another can. Sour cream comes in plastic containers, but there’s not a good smooth way of saying plastic containers. I’ve heard can used in this sense before. . . it’s sort of an analogue, something like people saying tin foil even though it’s been aluminum for quite some time now. (The entry follows 2 cans cream style corn, so maybe it’s just a repetition.)

Spinnach makes phonetic sense, but there only a couple of similar attestations in the OED [9].

Grated cheese has become a category of cheese- a type of cheese- rather than just a different form of cheese (or what one might do to cheese oneself) [10]. I’d have phrased it grated cheddar cheese, because I grate the cheese myself, dammit, and have knuckle-scars to prove it. But I can see how in this case, the form is the most important consideration, and the style of cheese is an afterthought. Bringing home grated mozzarella (for example) would be better than bringing home block cheddar, I suspect.

We’re already at quite a few words for half of a misspelled shopping list. More next week. Or possibly the next week.



1. I’m antiregional in this one, but it’s not obtuseness, for once. . . this was the family term for carbonated sweet drinks. It’s amusing to track down a map of the US, divided by what people call soft drinks. (Almost nobody calls them soft drinks.) Here’s a map: http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html

2. Also, I bought some cat litter.


4. I like to refer to them as typos, even when there’s no typing. Especially then.

5. http://vimeo.com/33535015

6. A brief jaunt into the etymology of coleslaw: it’s a short version of Dutch for cabbage salad. The folk etymology cold slaw has a longer attestation than the more correct coleslaw. Looking into it got me a wealth of vegetable etymologies, which I will probably post in a later column. (I will produce produce.)

7. Using demographics is always tricky. . . group conclusions, and most particularly made-up group conclusions, can’t apply to any one individual.

8. I’ve seen various raisin brans (raisins bran?) for sale, so I knew it wasn’t trademarked. A bit of researching shows that it once was, but the trademark was judged too literal. If you’re mixing raisins and bran, you can’t just trademark “raisin bran,” apparently.

9. I learned along the way about a New Yorker cartoon from 1928, drawn by Carl Rose and captioned by E.B. White: http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/It-s-broccoli-dear-I-say-it-s-spinach-and-I-say-the-hell-with-it-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8562908_.htm (Spinach was also a slang term for rubbish, apparently, but the joke works without that, too.) It’s supposed to be the most famous New Yorker cartoon of all.

10. Five instances of cheese in one line.