or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, March 11, 2005

Torte Reform

One of the most delightful aspects of English is its unhesitating willingness to mix and match parts of speech. If we'd like a word that means "trail someone as if you were their shadow", well, why not just use the word "shadow"? It's already there; we don't need to borrow a word from another language when we've already got a serviceable one waiting for us. Unlike so many other languages, we don't need to mark it in any way to indicate that it now has a new function; we just jam the usual verb endings onto it and we're in business.

However, there are, or should be, limits. I don't know who'd pass judgement on such matters, but I'm offering my services after discovering that "torte" has been turned into a verb. Who would do such a thing? And what could it possibly mean?

It would take a dedicated pastry hound to verbify an innocent torte, and so we look to the fine folks at Wilton. Some people--Martha Stewart comes to mind--like to slice an existing cake into thinner layers, the better to shovel more frosting into it, and therefore Wilton makes an admittedly clever device for doing this. But how to convince even more people to buy this thing? By telling them that they can make ordinary cakes into elegant tortes--or rather that they can make a cake from a mix and then "torte" it.

Well, they can't. A torte isn't just a cake with thinner layers; it's a specific kind of cake, a particularly rich one, made with an abundance of eggs and little or no flour. Wilton might as well say people can "cake" a wheel of cheese by putting frosting on it.


Post a Comment

<< Home