or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Big Chill

"Cryovac", formed from "cryo-" (from Greek "kruos", "icy cold") and "-vac" (an abbreviation of "vacuum", from Latin "vacare", "to be empty"), is a trade name for a process of protectively sealing chilled or frozen food. This article from Slate.com, about how distant we are from the killing of the animals we eat, is entitled "Well Done, Rare, or Cryovacked".

At first glance, I thought, "Hey, wait a minute. Shouldn't that be 'Cryovacced'?"

But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that "Cryovacked" was the right choice. After all, in English, when a multisyllabic word ends in "-c" and we need to form the preterite by affixing "-ed", we (almost) always shove a "k-" in between them so that the pronunciation is obvious. "Magic" becomes "magicked", not "magiced", so that some unwary reader doesn't try to figure out what "mag iced" might mean. Same with "bivouacked", "shellacked", "mosaicked", and so on.

As near as I can tell, there are only three words in English that do not end in "-cked" but instead in "-cced": "sicced", "flocced", and "specced". Even the briefest glance at these words will tell you why we didn't terminate them with "-cked"; because that would turn them into entirely different words. (Yes, "floc" is an English word; abbreviated from Lain "flocculus", "little tuft", it's related to French "flocon", "flake", and it means "a mass of flakes".)

Reluctantly, I have to admit that "Cryovacked" is the way we would logically form the past tense of the verb "Cryovac". I think "Cryovacced" looks nicer, but clearly that's just me: the English language is not on my side in this opinion.


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