animal "produce" (some Google results)?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Nov 25 17:20:07 UTC 2008

On Nov 24, 2008, at 10:07 AM, Ron Butters wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
> Subject:      animal "produce" (some Google results)?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> There is an interesting discussion at <
> about t=
> he question "Is fish meat?"
> As has already been suggested, the question is made more complex for
> the
> respondents by issues involving vegetarianism (for purposes of which
> fish is
> considered meat for most people) and Catholic church practices
> (where seafood
> was--and maybe is still--not considered "meat" for purposes of
> fasting and
> abstinence).

this has things somewhat backwards.  it's not that vegetarians and the
Catholic church are defining the word "meat".  rather, they each pick
out a category of foodstuffs that are excluded in certain situations
(FLESH and BROAD MEAT, respectively) and then refer to these
categories via the word "meat", using senses of "meat" that are
already available in the language.

> Most of the respondents, however, seemed to feel that seafood should
> be
> classified as "meat"--for whatever purpose. But, as Larry Horn
> suggested, this
> is clearly a borderline area in which responses are varied and many
> people
> have contingent and uncertain feelings.

in some cases, not uncertain at all.  (there are problems in asking
people directly how they use words.)  if i say to you, "I'm hungry for
some meat tonight", i will not be satisfied if you suggest a nice
piece of flounder.  the expressions "meat-and-potatoes man" and "big
meat-eater" similarly exclude seafood.  and a menu that lists a "meat
course" will not offer seafood under this heading.  there's more, but
maybe this will suffice.

> As for poultry, I found no evidence anywhere I looked that anyone
> thinks of
> poultry as not meat. The sources below all do, and they are pretty
> authoritative. Most of them seem to classify seafood as borderline...

the wikipedia Meat entry says:

"In modern English usage, meat most often refers to animal tissue used
as food ...  [note the problem with "animal tissue"]  The word meat is
also used by the meat packing and butchering industry in a more
restrictive sense—the flesh of mammalian species (pigs, cattle, etc.)
raised and butchered for human consumption, to the exclusion of fish,
poultry, and eggs."

and the Butcher entry says:

"A butcher is someone who prepares various meats and other related
goods for sale. Many butchers sell their goods in specialized stores,
although in the Western world today most meat is sold through
supermarkets." [further discussion and pictures all of instances of
MEAT PROPER, to the exclusion of poultry]

and meat  packing / meatpacking deals with instances of MEAT PROPER.
from wikipedia: "The meat packing industry is an industry that handles
the slaughtering, processing and distribution of animals such as
cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock."   ["livestock", alas,
sometimes includes poultry, but very often does not, as in the case of
the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.]  the industry association
is the American Meat Science Association, and it has no truck with
poultry.  (i used to teach occasionally in the Meat Sciences
Laboratory at the University of Illinois -- it had storage lockers for
meat, and huge hooks on pulleys -- and it was all about meat 'MEAT
PROPER'.  Poultry Science was elsewhere.)

i would imagine that at a restaurant in central Illinois (or in
Oklahama, where i've also spent some time) if you asked what kind of
meat they served, chicken or turkey would not be offered.

i'm not claiming that "meat" always refers to MEAT PROPER, only
denying that it always refers to BROAD MEAT or even to FLESH.   there
are contexts in which each of these is the intended denotation. but
there is variation from person to person, and there are zones of

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