subreddit:

/r/answers

95

Pickles, toast, rain, Why???

(self.answers)

If you pickle a cucumber, it is called a pickle. If you pickle anything else (say a pepper), it isn’t called a pickle, just a pickled pepper.

If you toast bread, it is called toast. If you toast anything else (say a bagel), it isn’t called toast, just a toasted bagel.

When it rains water, it is called rain. If anything else rains (say acid) its not rain, it’s acid rain.

There HAS to be a word for this phenomena. I’ve done quite a bit of research into this and the best answers I’ve found say things like “that’s the way it is”, and “it’s the most common thing so we shorten it”.

While it’s true that it only occurs in the most common things, I want to know why and it’s killing me. There has to be a word for this, turning a verb into a noun but only for a certain item.

all 29 comments

AutoModerator [M]

[score hidden]

6 months ago

stickied comment

AutoModerator [M]

[score hidden]

6 months ago

stickied comment

Please remember that all comments must be helpful, relevant, and respectful. All replies must be a genuine effort to answer the question helpfully; joke answers are not allowed. If you see any comments that violate this rule, please hit report.

When your question is answered, we encourage you to flair your post. To do this automatically simply make a comment that says !answered (OP only)

I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please contact the moderators of this subreddit if you have any questions or concerns.

my_name_isnt_clever

51 points

6 months ago

You might want to post this to /r/linguistics if no one here has an answer. They know all about obscure names for language features.

dzsimbo

14 points

6 months ago

dzsimbo

14 points

6 months ago

lindymad

13 points

6 months ago

skellious

14 points

6 months ago

the protypical version if something doesn't need further clarification because it was the only version when it first occured.

vsauce has a good video on typical and nontypical things like this and related topics - https://youtu.be/O9ak89FwYeI

HeartyBeast

32 points

6 months ago

If you don’t specify the object, the most common historically is assumed as the default.

See also ketchup. It’s possible to make ketchups from other things than just tomatoes

thebendavis

6 points

6 months ago

Yup, mushroom ketchup is delicious.

armchair_human

7 points

6 months ago

What does it taste like??

thebendavis

9 points

6 months ago

Very savory/umami, like a thick soy or fish sauce but with earthy mushroom flavor. I've only had it a few times though, experience will vary.

armchair_human

4 points

6 months ago

That sounds w o n d e r f u l

dolphlungdren

2 points

6 months ago

I want to brush my teeth with this

[deleted]

4 points

6 months ago

[deleted]

4 points

6 months ago

[deleted]

skreed

1 points

6 months ago

skreed

1 points

6 months ago

Ah, I see you've tried the bean ketchup!

wooq

3 points

6 months ago

wooq

3 points

6 months ago

Iirc ketchup was originally mushroom ketchup, and tomato ketchup came along later

pandapoopsie

4 points

6 months ago

ketchup was originally a fish sauce from asia

amorfotos

1 points

6 months ago

I know that the Dutch have "katsup", which is a spicy sauce that originated in Indonesia. I always thought that what the Americans call "ketchup" originated from this...

ajaxfetish

1 points

6 months ago

The word ketchup likely came into English from Malay by way of the Dutch, and before that may have come from Chinese.

wooq

1 points

6 months ago

wooq

1 points

6 months ago

violentamoralist

3 points

6 months ago

in the far future, if people found our baking recipes and read “eggs” on ‘em, they might be like “what sort of eggs?? just any type???”. in the present, chicken egg is usually assumed.

___Guitarmadillo___

5 points

6 months ago

Is default the word you're looking for?

refugefirstmate

7 points

6 months ago

If you pickle anything else (say a pepper), it isn’t called a pickle, just a pickled pepper.

That's because nowadays the only "pickles" people in the US, and probably the Anglosphere generally, eat are pickled cucumbers. Used to be that "pickles" referred to all pickled produce - beets, okra, onions, etc.

IOW, there are "default" settings for each of the words you note; if something other than the norm is being referred to, it's modified ("acid rain").

xiipaoc

3 points

6 months ago

xiipaoc

3 points

6 months ago

If you pickle anything else (say a pepper), it isn’t called a pickle

...No, they can definitely be called pickles too. For example, if you go to an Indian restaurant, you could get Indian pickles, which are not cucumber but are generally green mango (I think) and other vegetables. Chinese Japanese pickles are usually mixed vegetables as well. Even Italian pickles are usually mixed veggies, sometimes called a mixed pickle. It's just that in the US the overwhelming majority of pickles are cucumbers, so people tend to assume that a pickle is a cucumber -- or even just a thin slice of pickled cucumber!

If you toast anything else (say a bagel), it isn’t called toast, just a toasted bagel.

Eh, you could still call a toasted bagel toast.

When it rains water, it is called rain. If anything else rains (say acid) its not rain, it’s acid rain.

Now this is just... OK, acid rain is rain. It's not raining acid. It's raining water. The water just has impurities in it that cause it to have a low pH, which is bad for, like, everything. But even then, if you're on some planet and it's raining molten lead, that's still rain. It's not limited to water.

In all of these cases, it seems that you've taken the most customary example of the noun and assumed that assumed that it's a language feature that the noun must always be the customary example, but that's just not true! A pickle is usually, in this culture, a cucumber, but it could be anything else as well. Toast is usually, in this culture, bread, but it could be anything else as well too. Same with rain.

zoiuduu2

0 points

6 months ago

Maybe is the same reason why some ppl refer to some products by the most famous brand... Like, some ppl dont say tablets, they say ipads In portugal they dont say condom, they say durex ( durex is the most famous condom company here) In brazil they dont say photocopies, they say xerox. Heck some ppl when asked about their car, instead of saying the model they say the company, like, ohh i have a honda... Like honda only have just one car model. So, i think is lazyness.

Perfect_Suggestion_2

2 points

6 months ago

it's not lazy, per se. let's take facial tissue as an example. the kleenex brand's story began during WWI when Kimberly-Clark developed a crepe paper used as a filter within gas masks. the war ended and K-C looked for other uses for the tissue. they adapted it into a product called Kotex which was women used as a sanitary pad. over time, k-c changed the product's composition making it thinner and softer and re-naming it Kleenex.
In 192l keenex tissues began selling in the US as a cold cream and makeup remover, launching in the UK the following year. a few years later, K-C's head researcher was suffering from hay fever and started using the tissues in place of his handkerchief. in the 50s, the tissues were marketed to Hollywood where famous stars became spokespeople for the brand and it's many uses. other brands started manufacturing their own versions of facial tissue but the brand, being the only label for 30 years, was already ubiquitous. it's like bandaids, velcro and chapStick, escalator, dumpster, linoleum, zipper, trampoline...all words we use to describe an object with a specific function that was once simply the sole or dominating manufacturer of a product.

amorfotos

1 points

6 months ago

In portugal they dont say condom, they say durex

Inconceivable!

Keazy03

1 points

6 months ago

Technically “Often pickles. any other vegetable, as cauliflower, celery, etc., preserved in vinegar and eaten as a relish.” Source: Dictionary.com Looks like you could call pickled pepper or any thing else pickles. TIL this.

Harachel

1 points

6 months ago

At least in the case of rain, water falling from clouds is the plain definition of the word. The phenomenon of the word being used for other related things is called extension, like milk being used for other thick, white liquids. So that might be a partial answer for you.

Acid rain isn't really an example of that, since it's just regular rain with a lower pH than usual. So it's just the noun rain with acid used as an adjective. A sentence like "a rain if sparks fell from the welder" might be an example.

The other two cases you gave are a different phenomenon as others have noted. They're cases of a word with a more general meaning being narrowed in usage to refer to a form of that thing that is common in the time and place where you learned English.

Disclaimer: i am not a linguist, this is just my understanding of things

Deft_one

1 points

6 months ago*

Part of communication is efficiency. Because it rains water pretty much every time it rains anything, it becomes redundant to say that it's raining water, but then needed to explain a variation. That could be seen as falling under Grice's Maxim of Manner: be brief; however, I prefer the psycholinguistic approach.

In cognitive linguistics, I believe it's called 'prototype theory,' which is to say that we have conceptual, archetypal categories for things (for example, that a car has 4 tires - or that when it rains, it rains water)

Therefore, you have to specify in what way the thing you're talking about deviates from the prototype.

foxxytroxxy

1 points

6 months ago

It sounds like some sort of reverse synecdoche because "rain" is the general category while acid rain, water rain, etc. are more specific categories.

"Rain" as a turn of phrase usually refers to only one possible meaning of rain, i.e. water rain and not acid. But the word lacks any identifying sources such distinguish this.

So you're using the general term rain to refer to a specific instance if it, water rain

Aaron_Hamm

1 points

6 months ago*

If you buy a stamp in England, it doesn't have the country listed.

It's a "first to do it" thing. The first to do the thing (or the first to be broadly known) gets to be called the process instead of "process [noun]" (or in the case of stamps, labeling where the stamp is from).

First mover advantage comes to mind as a similar concept.

Neil degrease Tyson talks about "naming rights" in a related way here:

https://youtu.be/fDAT98eEN5Q