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.