Let’s talk about hamburgers. Depending on your druthers a carefully-proportioned build of the bread, meat, vegetables and condiments makes for an American classic that – despite trendy variations – hasn’t changed in over a century. But here’s a curiosity for you: Why does every ingredient in a burger also serve an entirely different purpose in the English language? Let’s disassemble, shall we? Top to bottom, I now give you the eleven essential ingredients.
The bun comes first of course; the capstone to lock all other burger components into place. But a bun is also an element of a hairstyle, is it not? You have that coil of hair on top of the head or at the nape of the neck and you call it a bun. We even have the man-bun. Er, not me. The only bun I identify with is on my burger.
Below the bun we find a very small vegetable garden. For today’s purposes we include onions, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles. But did you know, if you know all there is to know about a topic, you “know your onions“? Did you also know a tomato is old-world slang for a woman or a girl? Lettuce is today’s language for cash – dollar bills if you will. And a pickle, well that’s one of those predicaments where you say, “how did I get into this?”
Here’s a favorite ingredient. I like bacon on my burger. But not only are we all trying to bring home the bacon (i.e. make a living), but we’re also occasionally trying to save someone’s bacon (i.e. they desperately need our help).
Time for condiments. In no particular order, squeeze on a little mustard, relish and ketchup. Now, if I approve of your hamburger I tell you it “cuts the mustard“. And when you sit down to enjoy your burger I assume you relish the taste.
(Confession timeout: ketchup exists for the one and only purpose of serving as king of the condiments. Call it ketchup or catsup; all I know is the Chinese claim its invention. So opportunity knocks; let’s get ketchup out of the bottle and into an alternative use in the English language!)
Now add a slice of cheese. Think about that ingredient for a moment. Where else do you use cheese outside of the food world? Why, in front of the camera of course! And when you “say cheese” let’s also agree it has nothing to do with the food, but rather the way the word forces your mouth into the requisite smile for the photographer.
We’re almost there. The beef (patty) that is the essential ingredient of the hamburger is so much more than ground round. It’s a reference to muscle or brawn (but not to be confused with “beefcake” as this blog is rated “G”). Having a beef is about a complaint or an argument. Building something in size or amount means beefing it up.
Let’s not forget about the bottom bun. If we combine it with the top bun we have the plural, and that of course refers to a certain part of the human anatomy. Pursue your “buns of steel” if you must; I will settle for my buns on burgers.
That’s all for today’s enlightenment on the vocabulary of the hamburger. For extra credit check out the spice rack (“salt”, “pepper”, and so many more) or the bakery case (“cookies”, “rolls”), Foods are chomping to be more than just something to eat!