This is a sort of minor rant-begets-another-rant. I found myself writing “pant” in the previous post, and this reminded me of an irritating -ism which I think must be made in America. I want to call it singularism, but this seems to already be taken (suggestions?). Why do we so often see “pant” instead of “pants”? As in, “the progressive, slim design of the Oakley Landic Pant reflects the style and shreddage of pro rider Eiki Helgason”. (For real:
). I don’t remember growing up with any pants-in-the-singular– popular wisdom held that a pant would cover only one leg, or why always “a pair”– so I think this bit of culture must have been developed by a marketing agency. Maybe it’s an expression of the desire to remake the mass-produced plural into the artisanal singular, but now available democratically, sort of an anti-Magnificent Ambersons thing.
The singular articles “a” and “the” make a noun pop into focus as a proper entity, like capitalization– and are often used with it, as in the famous Oakley Landic Pant. “The” is a tad grandiose, hence open to mild ridicule as in “The Mews at Laurel Valley”, or maybe just preemptive self-mockery, as in “The Stranger: Seattle’s Only Newspaper”.
At first glance “a” seems more modest, in that it implies that the author is only one of a humble yet unctuous artisanal guild servicing your effete needs, as in
“served with Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Vegetables, and a Cabernet Black Truffle Jus”... “on a bed of Champagne Sabayon”... “drizzled with a rice wine vinegar dressing”... “Served with a Vanilla Cream Frosting and a Milk Chocolate Cause”.
It’s hard to make the case that the author of a menu should avoid being “the” schmuck by making the reader feel like “a” schmuck. (The source of these culinary embarrassments? A Walt Disney menu, of course. But what the hell is a Milk Chocolate Cause, anyway? [Inappropriate theory deleted.])
Happily, I think this marketing mannerism is beginning to fade, along with the potency of the US dollar. The better sort of restaurants in Seattle no longer bother with articles at all, going instead for a pleasingly stripped-down treatment:
restaurant zoë delivers the article-free goods
anchovies and olives: clean, article-free eating since 2010
Even the pompously retrograde Lahière’s in Princeton has dropped its singulars from the menu, though the typography could still use some work, and “risotto of” is still suspect:
So life improves!