Restaurant Reification: You Can’t Eat Their Words

One of my favorite words is reification (now that you can use my most hated words against me). Sounds like a meaningless jumble of morphemes, doesn’t it?

It’s one of the most life-changing words I’ve ever experienced.

You may not know it, but you reify. A lot. We all do. Every time you regard something that’s abstract (a concept, an idea, a word) as the real thing, as something material or concrete, you’re reifying.

Take the number 2, for example. Caught you! “Two” or “2” is a concept, an idea, a word. Except in the Platonic world, there’s really no such thing as 2. Get my drift? It seems as real as the candle on the cake, I know, but “2” stands for the idea of two years. Now blow.

Here’s where I run into real-world practical trouble with reification.

We’re in a restaurant. The menu before me promises every earthly delight from beast to legume. I’m in feast fantasyland, can’t decide, want everybody to order everything so I can taste it all.

Note the menu doesn’t say “bean, slab of meat from cow, cleaned flesh from fowl, piece of pig with hairy root vegetables, mussels with brine and beard recently scraped off.”

Nope, it’s “haricot vert”—and how I love the way the French syllables tumble over my tongue while my word-taste buds salivate to “sautéed in a savory shallot-white wine-balsamic dill-rosemary-caper sauce.” Then the plate comes. And they’re just green beans, after all. Damn.

Even champignon sounds better than “pungent little fungi that feed on decayed matter.” Seems the French are best at this snow job.

Think about it:


It doesn’t taste as good as it reads.

(If only I could eat my words sometimes.)

I would imagine that reification tastes something like sawdust or the empty vacuum of space. Alienation. A separation of the word from the thing.

2 Replies to “Restaurant Reification: You Can’t Eat Their Words”

  1. I like the euphemism/dysphemism combination of words. You probably know euphemism, using certain words or phrases to reduce the impact of certain words or phrases, such as the term “extraordinary rendition” which what the Bush administration used in place of “torture.’

    Dysphemism is the exact opposite of that. It’s using a word or phrase to INCREASE the impact of a certain word or phrase, say, replacing the word marijuana with “narcotic”

    What I find fascinating about these two concepts is, which comes first? The Euph or the Dysph?

    Is “passed away” a euphemism for “dead” or is “dead” dysphemism for “passed away”?


  2. Cool, ed–never heard of dysphemism. Which term comes first an etymology dictionary would say, in case you were being literal.

    But in general, regarding our tendency as a human species to initially euphemize or dysphemize: Since euph’ing is the exclusive purview of republicans/ultraconservatives, always trying to wipe their asses and our brains with sanitary phrases; and considering they descend directly from neanderthals, I’m guessing Euphemisms came first.

    Except they also invented “baby-killer.” That dys’s my theory.

    “Freedom Fighter” gave me the ill chills. In fact, so many of the euph’s feel like dys’s to me and vice versa, that the terms chase their tales [sic] all over my head.

    Cheers! War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength! –from my favorite dys(blue staters)/eu(red staters)topia

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