[Ads-l] Crustaceans

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 26 10:55:55 UTC 2014

There's a long history of Americans (and Canadians) trying to pick a
single-word characterization of all edible creatures that come from bodies
of water. Seafood is a good category, but it runs into a problem of having
to deal with fish and others from rivers and lakes. Fish is generally
questionable but common in reference to mollusks, such as squid, octopus or
scallop, although I've heard the same reference to shrimp dishes. If we're
willing to have two categories then fish and shellfish isn't a vad way to
go -- small mollusks come in a shell and crustacean bodies can be
considered having a shell, of sorts, as do echinoderms.  But that too
causes problems as octopus, squid, cuttlefish, jellyfish and sea cucumber
do not have shells, but are included in the shellfish category.

That leads me to today's observation. In MasterChef Canada semifinal, the
contestants were given a choice of razor clams, scallops and Dungeness
crab, to which the leading chef referred to as "the three crustaceans".
Now, this is an odd choice, given that it represents an even smaller class
correctly than any of the other common choices. But it's not the first time
that I've heard mollusks referred to as "crustaceans". It's easy to
attribute this to lack of knowledge of  formal taxonomy, but, I believe,
there's more going on here. In this case, one of the other lead chefs
(there are three) referred to the group as shellfish, while the third
labeled it as seafood. The description as "three crustaceans" came much
later, toward the end of the show, after the challenge had been completed.

Just to be clear, mollusks and echinoderms aren't crustaceans and
crustaceans and echinoderms aren't mollusks (although chefs do occasionally
refer to sea urchin and sea cucumber as "mollusks"). To make matters worse,
some people confuse arthropods (phylum) with crusteceans (subphylum). Lice
generally aren't crustaceans, but woodlice and fish lice are. So are
barnacles, whom most observers believe to be mollusks. (Note, none of these
are comestibles). One can be forgiven for an occasional reference to
lobsters as "giant insects" (both arthropods), but calling a mollusk a
crustacean seems to go much further.

Also note that there's some formal pushback against the terms starfish and
jellyfish (as neither is a fish--see Wiki article on jellyfish).

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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