Archive for language

If it wasn’t for those pesco-vegetarians…

Although I have just found the French word for vegan, I can’t convince myself it is going to be very useful. Just mentioning the word for vegetarian draws the most quizzical expressions. I think it would be better received if I were to say I lived on Mars. It would be less alien to the French psyche than to claim I didn’t eat animals.

I recently decided to try my luck in a place that served sushi. I should not have bothered! The shopkeeper tried to convince me that she had plates of vegetarian sushi, but pointed at sushi with salmon. I called her on this, saying that I could see some salmon.

“Yes,” she told me, “that’s not meat.” Double-take time for me. Eventually I ordered some plain noodles and boiled vegetables, using the chilli sauce on the table to add some flavour.

As I reflected on this at my leisure, I realized who was really to blame. It’s not, as you might think, the beleaguered shopkeepers who have to deal with such unconventional and demanding customers. No. It’s those people. You know the ones. The vegetarians who eat fish. I have no beef with them over their chosen diet, but why did they have to go and pollute a nice simple concept like vegetarianism with eating fish? It’s no wonder the food service industries in the Western world are so confused by the idea.

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It’s just like riding a bike

Today, while contemplating an impending bike ride, my wife expressed concern that she hadn’t ridden a bike in ages: would she still be able to do it? Of course you can guess what phrase sprang unhelpfully to mind.

“Once you learn, you never forget—it’s just like riding a bike.”

To be fair, it served my purpose to highlight that cycling was the archetypal once-learned-never-forgotten activity. That alone served to reassure her. It still set me wondering: what should I have compared it to?

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