Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Empanada Semiotics (also an OBG update)

The empanada code 1

Dear Jumbo Foods:

It's probably a consequence of my currently reading "Barthes para Principiantes" (Barthes for Beginners), but I couldn't help thinking earlier this evening, as I gummed down some of your tasty baked goods, "Have you ever considered hiring a professional semiotician"? For one thing, (s)he might have something to say about your somewhat ill-considered name choice as a company. And some pointers about how to package your product line in a consumer-friendly fashion:

The empanada code 2

Chalk it up to my non-Argentine ancestry, but I'm afraid that, when confronted with the cornucopia of flaky goodness pictured above earlier tonight, I found myself at a distinct loss. How was I to know, for instance, that 'triangular' is code for 'delicious tuna', or that the other, more misshapen, item on the left in the second picture would contain 'carne with black olives'? I'm sure that this is information every good Argentine absorbs with his mother's milk, but spare a thought for us poor foreigners. My ignorance about the semiotics of differently shaped empanadas lent a decidely aleatory touch to tonight's dining experience.

Granted, you are not alone in your erroneous assumptions about the semiotic savvy of consumers. For instance, it has taken me half a lifetime of noshing on the kind of chocolates that come in gift boxes to figure out that square or rectangular almost always means caramel or nougat (a kind I would definitely have to avoid in my current temporarily dentally challenged state), while oval almost always indicates a fondue filling of some kind.

But the manufacturers of Whitman Samplers, Cadbury's Milk Tray assortments, Rowntree's Black Magic and the like generally take some pity on their sweet-toothed customers and include a little schematic diagram to help decipher the contents of their various chocolatey treats, a feature which helps minimize the frequency of such hideous events as finding a tooth-marked delicacy (i.e. tried and rejected) nestling innocently in the box.

Perhaps you too might consider such an aide-memoire? If only to help us pitiful foreigners who are just visiting this great land of yours.

I, for one, would be droolingly grateful.


Anonymous said...


[ad. L. letri-us, f. letor a dice-player, f. lea a die, the dice.]

Now that's an interesting 17th century word:

1693 URQUHART Rabelais III. xlii, So continually fortunate in that aleatory way of deciding Law Debates. 1818 H. COLEBROOKE Oblig. & Contr. I. 17 If the equivalent consist in the risk of loss, or the chance of gain, dependent on an uncertain event, the contract is contingent and aleatory or hazardous. 1879 MOTLEY in Holmes Life xxi. 168 Such an aleatory process seemed an unworthy method in arbitrations.

Spatchcock said...

Which one has pieces of Viggo Mortensen inside?

Anonymous said...

But aleatory music, for example, is a distinctly 20th century concept.

Pb said...

Black olives, yum. Tuna, yum. I would have eaten your leftovers happily. You're onto something, you just need an empanada decoder ring.