Monday, October 10, 2005

Liberty Sandwich: Freedom fries wasn't the first idotic and useless name change the United States has ever had.

I find this terribly interesting. Many will remember when France refused to support the US invasion of Iraq and the ridiculous name change that ensued, "freedom fries" being the most well known (along with the lesser known freedom doors, freedom kissing, freedom tickler, freedom language, etc.). People seem to think that changing the name of a food is going to detract from the credibility of a movement or a country.

Anyhow, this was not the first time Americans had faught fire with foolishness. During World War I, the American spirit triumphed once again over another more menacing enemy by renaming sauerkraut --> Liberty Cabbage, Hamburger --> Liberty Sandwich, and German measels --> Liberty measles.

I don't mention this just to be cute; I mention it because it illustrates a very interesting phenomenon. I have both my girlfriend and another good Swedish friend of mine on seperate occasions question my use of certain words:
  • The first was over a year ago, I was speaking with my friend Anna about cinema, and I said, "I love that film." Anna chuckled to herself when I said it. When I asked her why, she said, "I just think it's interesting how much you love everything. In Swedish, we hesitate to say we 'love' something and reserve it only for occassions when the feeling is powerful." I paused. She wasn't being condescending, just mentioning how she felt about it. She then asked, "What do you say when you really love something?"

    With that, I found myself at a loss for words, because my answer was, "Well, we just say, I really love that film or person. Then we spend time trying to convince the other person that we mean it."
  • The other instance was only last week when Fanfan asked me how she can be so sure that I love her if I love everything. I found myself stumbling awkwardly through a French explanation that I really loved her, and that the other things don't compare to her.
In both French and Chinese (as well as Swedish, I believe), the phrase I love you translates to "I like you." If that doesn't show the significance of the word "love," I don't know what does.

If you're wondering what the connection is to our obsession for renaming things by replacing certain words with "freedom" or "liberty," it's because we've denegrated the word by using constantly without any sense of gravity, largely as a consequence of the "Brand America" program. Let's look at the list of everyday words that have had their weight relegated by flippant use:
  • Evil
  • Freedom
  • Liberty
  • Terrorism
  • War
  • Democracy
The list goes on.

The point here is that naming a bird a fish only diminshes the swimming ability of the fish.

3 Comments:

Blogger Nine Reeds said...

Ahh, classic America.
Great blog.

1:44 PM  
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