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How About Not Belonging To A Polity That Tries To Control The Language

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Grand excitement as it is announced that plant based foodstuffs may be called burgers and sausages instead of roundy things and tubes. This is a victory for vegetarians activists everywhere!

Except, of course, it isn’t, it’s a depressing defeat for civil liberty and sensible government.

In 2019 alone, in more than 24 states in the US attempts were made to pass legislation restricting what could be labelled with meat terms. Last month, the European Union decided that meat-related descriptors were fine – though words such as “dairy”, “butter”, “cream imitation”, and “yogurt-style” were not to be used on labels for non-dairy products. These legislative manoeuvres are the last gasps of industrial animal agriculture, fighting for relevance in a food landscape that is shifting toward plant-based diets.

Of course, we might just point out – and then stop – to our American writer friend here that Britain has left the European Union so what they say doesn’t actually matter in the British language.

But we should go further than that and say that what government decides isn’t relevant to the language either. Language is a bottom up thing – we are not, after all, French – and it is us who decide which words to use, what they mean, when we may or may not use them and so on. There is no government – again, in Englsih – body that decides whether Cool Beanz is something that may be said, that determines whether portmanteau words like “bansturbation” may be used in The Times (that one was me, got there first after Harry Haddock’s coining of it), it is usage that comes first.

So, whether something is a veggie burger of a Linda McCartney tube is something we decide not government.

This even before we get to those pitiful remnant dregs of the European Union where no one does have English as a first and official language so what in buggery are they doing pronouncing on the issue?

All of which leads us to the correct reaction to being told that it was even possible that veggie burgers would become plant roundels, that plant based sausages much become tubes. Right, we’re leaving. Because the correct reaction to a polity trying to define your own use of your own language is to leave that polity.

As we have done.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Not sure this “call it what you like, so long as people recognise it and it isn’t misleading” idea will turn out quite true even post-Brexit. Don’t think Britain is going to get rid of protected food names, which is one way of controlling language used around food. So single Gloucester cheese must come from Gloucester but double Gloucester isn’t protected so doesn’t, Kentish ale must be from Kent and not just Kentishish…

    See e.g. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/geographical-indications-gi-creating-uk-schemes-after-eu-exit

  2. And we’ve got perfectly cromulant words for this sort of thing, they’re called adjectives.

    So, you can have a fish rissole, or a cheese rissole, or an onion rissole, or a beef rissole. You can have beef pie, vegetable pie, mushroom pie, chicken pie. etc etc etc.

  3. ‘… fighting for relevance in a food landscape that is shifting toward plant-based diets.‘

    Well that is a fantasy. I don’t see butchers closing or meat counters/displays getting smaller or meat dishes being scarce on restaurant menus.

    The real mystery is why do the anti-meat cult members want their plant-based concoctions to resemble meat products or be named after them. It suggests a lack of self-confidence and wistfulness for bacon butties.

  4. As John B says, If plant-based foods are so glorious, why is that they process them into things that look like meaty items? is it because, few want to eat them in their natural condition?

    Demanding that a veggie sausage be called a “veggie tube” or similar seems like a counterproductive argument. If replacing meat with vegetable products was so important, then obfuscating the terminology as much as possible would seem to be the best course to get customers to try them.

    But this is about “purity” really, isn’t it. First control/restrict the language to remove meat references, then control/restrict the meat itself, until we’re all encouraged forced to eat the veggie diet.

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