a reduction of pants

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!

This entry was posted in food, thoughts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to a reduction of pants

  1. I’ve always been curi­ous at the use of the word math in the sin­gu­lar form here in the US ver­sus the plur­al maths I grew up with in the UK

  2. Julian Walker says:

    A curios­i­ty that I’ve come across numer­ous times on French menus is the use of the pos­ses­sive adjec­tive when list­ing the items that accom­pa­ny the main fea­ture. Such as: Filet de boeuf fer­mi­er Aubrac servi avec son aumônière de poivrons et sa poêlée de girolles or Ter­rine de foie gras d’oie et son chut­ney. I’ve nev­er under­stood who/what is doing the pos­sess­ing? Does this indi­cate that the chut­ney is some­how a deriv­a­tive of the foie gras? I’ve always meant to ask a French­man, but nev­er got­ten around to it. Sur­pris­ing­ly, Google Trans­late per­forms impres­sive­ly on these, some­how unrav­el­ling the mys­tery: Aubrac beef ten­der­loin served with farmer’s purse pep­pers and fried mush­rooms and Ter­rine of foie gras and chut­ney.

Leave a Reply to steve clayton Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *