Number 10 can (plus a surprise Hibachi)

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun Oct 2 22:50:43 UTC 2011

I agree that the citations are not robust, but if someone said to me, "It tasted like it came from a #10 can," I would take it to mean it had inferior taste such as you might find at a restaurant chain or cafeteria. Conversely, I might say to someone who complimented a dish, "And it came from a #10 can!" meaning that it's a surprise.

That doesn't mean that all food that comes from #10 cans is of poor quality, but that the word "#10 can" has the connotation of institutional-like poor flavor. That's why I think it deserves its own entry, whereas other can numbers do not.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

On Oct 2, 2011, at 3:27 PM, victor steinbok wrote:

> There seems to be a combination here of disdain toward institutional food,
> in general, and mockery of large cans, in general. But I don't think, in any
> of these cases, the usage suggests specifically that #10 can implies lower
> quality of content. Where it happens, it's almost coincidental.
> For my part, I routinely get San Marzano tomatoes in #10 can from Costco
> whose quality is comparable to those in smaller cans in Whole Foods and the
> price is actually cheaper than one of those small cans. Similarly, there is
> no appreciable quality difference between *branded* #10 cans and the #2
> versions. It's the "white label" cans that you need to worry about, in which
> case, the mockery will be of generic products, not specifically of the
> content of #10 can. It seems there are several layers of sarcasm working
> here.
> VS-)
> On Sun, Oct 2, 2011 at 4:01 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at>wrote:
>> ...
>> My citations don't provide evidence that "#10 can" means anything other
>> than a can that is a size number 10, so today I tried to find citations
>> illustrating that "#10 can" is used to refer to poorer quality
>> institutionally prepared food.
>> Google Books did not provide any clear citations, but here are some in no
>> particular order that indicate that the word refers to cans of food in
>> general. They are followed by a couple of other Internet citations.
>> ...
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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