A Truly Meaty Language


A crumby introduction to a meaty topic.

One Saturday a couple of my engineer friends and I took our wives out for breakfast. These wives put up with us and our clumsy social skills, possibly because one is a physicist and the other two are software developers. As is our wont, we began a little word game, trying to outdo each other in complementing our wives.

“Pass the sugar, sweetie,” Mikey said.

Dmitri took up the challenge. He said, “Pass the honey, honey.”

I don’t like to sweeten my coffee, so I was at a disadvantage when my turn came. My wife looked at me expectantly. I shrugged and said, “Pass the bacon, pig.”

I had fallen into their trap. When you get past sugar and honey, there are few food-related words in English that are consistently positive when used to describe non-food items, like spouses.

I don’t think I would have received any better reaction from my wife if I had tried calling her meaty, porky, or even something lean, such as chicken.

“Pass the drumstick, Turkey Dearest.” Nope. That wouldn’t have flown either.

I don’t understand this peculiar aspect of my beloved language. Everybody loves food. I would expect that comparing things to our favorite foods would universally make them sound better. But it seems that it is just the opposite. Here are some examples that took me only five minutes to think up.

I ordered a cheesy pizza, but the delivery guy was late because of his cheesy Chevy Vega.

That story about the honey and bacon was not only corny, but I think I heard Milton Berle tell it before.

Uncle Milty was great on TV, but the camera made him look a little puffy. On stage in Vegas he used language that was quite a bit more salty. My mom preferred Jerry Lewis, although to me he came off as oily and just plain nutty.

Our dog feels crumby because the weather has been so soupy the past week.

My neighbor was acting a little flaky and crusty the other day, which seemed fishy until I found out he was no longer loafing around at the pond, and now had a job at the bakery. Before he got that gig, he used to be bony. With all the free donuts he is growing milky and doughy.

It’s a fun game to play in the car while you’re driving with the family, in between sending texts. Take turns thinking up food-related words, and the winner of the game is the first to think of one that is positive when describing non-food stuff. Fair warning: it’s almost impossible. I love word games like that. They’re peachy! (Oh, no! A counterexample!)