Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Taste

Yes, I believe words have flavor. Here I go again, watching the gol-durned corruption-box TV. I just heard a commercial for some sort of fiber product that you stir into a glass of water. They claim it's clear and
tasteless.

I remember the last time we heard that word used in an ad, and all of us laughed. #1 Son said, "How can a product like that be 'tasteless'? It's not kitschy or anything. Don't they mean, 'flavorless'?"

I think it's tasteless to talk about fiber and bowel functions on TV. But consider the source: I was also raised in a family where no one was ever allowed to fart except in the bathroom, and people certainly did not discuss such matters except in hushed tones and in extreme confidence. We were, uh, anal about it all. (Look at that, Mom and Dad and Grandma Sylvia! I said FART and ANAL on the world-wide internet and used them in conjunction with your names!) No, I'm okay. They won't beat me out the screen door with brooms or anything. But that's only because they're all dead.

Although my Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide does list "lacking flavor" as its first definition for the word "tasteless," and the first definition is usually the "preferred" definition, here at Chez Laugh About Language we take exception to that definition. It would be tasteless to poison someone with something flavorless. I don't want to consume anything that's tasteless, unless I bought it on purpose because I was charmed by its tackiness. I have a number of objects that attest to my lack of taste. For instance, I just bought a pair of UCLA Crocs in Bruin colors, bright blue and yellow. They are really ugly, and I just love them. They pamper my heel spur while at the same time looking like football helmets for feet. My son says, "Mom, those are shoes with a message, and the message is, 'trailer trash!'" They were a tasteless choice.

Anyway, my point? I don't like the usage of "tasteless" meaning "flavorless," because in my family it was never used. "Tasteless" always meant "in bad taste." If we meant "without flavor," we said "flavorless." In addition, we had a little rule that if you ran across a usage that resulted in some form of ambiguity or could be easily misconstrued, you simply said what you wanted to say a different way so as to avoid the ambiguity or misconstruction.

On to the next thing. On the local news the other night, "two men were seen to flee the scene." I might save that for a poem I'll write later. But it sounded stupid at the time. It looks better than it sounds, like "He just wants to get you a loan."

Which reminds me of one that has bothered me for years and which I hear on the news all the time:
A [insert age of person or vehicle here] was found (or discovered) missing.

No. It/s/he decidedly was not found or discovered. That's why they're referred to as missing.

Of course I wonder if there's an official linguistic term for such a construction. I guess it's a whole different sort of oxymoron. A verbal oxymoron? Usually oxymorons are modifier-noun constructions: "jumbo shrimp"; "government intelligence." This is a past-present participle construction. I can't think of any other examples of that, and I'm making my own brain tired trying to think. It doesn't get a lot of exercise. (Sometimes I am my own peeve.) "Dried sprinkling" or something like that. Oh, shut up and go do something else, sputnik! End of post.

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1 Comments:

At 5/10/2007 12:23 PM, Blogger pepektheassassin said...

Also, I think this is very funny! I read it to my husband, but being of another type mind, he took issue with some of the things I thought were hilarious!

 

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