A tasty compendium of modern comestibles

There's always one bit of a sandwich that falls out, and it is always the bit you were looking forward to
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The Independent Online

Time for another visit from our expert on modern English, Dr Wordsmith. Dr Wordsmith, as you probably know, has recently published a best-seller about the way we speak now called These Sort of Things and has been out on the road doing book-signings, talking about his book and getting drunk on cheap local claret. He is now back from the provinces and ready for another barrage of questions about today's English. Fire away, ladies and gents!

Time for another visit from our expert on modern English, Dr Wordsmith. Dr Wordsmith, as you probably know, has recently published a best-seller about the way we speak now called These Sort of Things and has been out on the road doing book-signings, talking about his book and getting drunk on cheap local claret. He is now back from the provinces and ready for another barrage of questions about today's English. Fire away, ladies and gents!

Dear Dr Wordsmith: I know that you have always said that meanings arrive before words, meaning that the need for a word produces the word, and not the other way round. An antelope, for example, existed before any word for the antelope ever came along. Human language is merely an attempt by man to map what already exists, unless of course it describes human activity, when language could conceivably affect the object described...

Dr Wordsmith writes: How much more of this goobledygook do we have to sit through before you get to a question? It's my job to baffle people with pseudo-science, not yours. Get on with it!

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Yes, well, I have a question about sandwiches.

Dr Wordsmith: It was named after the Fifth Earl of Sandwich when he...

Dear Dr Wordsmith: No, no, we all know that! I have a question about modern sandwiches. For a long time, when you bought a sandwich to take away, it was cut across the middle to make two rectangles. But now most sandwiches are cut from corner to corner, producing two triangles. Not only does this change the shape of the sandwich, it also changes the shape of the container in which it is sold, because it used to be square and is now triangular. I wondered if there was any word in modern English to distinguish a triangular plastic sandwich container from a rectangular or square clear plastic sandwich container?

Dr Wordsmith writes: There may well be. Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith: On the subject of sandwiches, many of us take a sandwich or two on a car journey, often bought in service areas, which lie beside us on the seat for a while and which we then try to open one-handed. That's bad enough, but then we have to eat them one-handed! I have often found myself holding a triangular sandwich at a certain angle so as to prevent the contents falling out, and I wonder if there is in fact a word meaning "to hold a triangular sandwich at a certain angle in order to prevent the contents falling out"?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I can certainly see the need for such a word. Let us hope there is one. Next!

Dear Dr Wordsmith: In my experience, however you hold a sandwich, there is always one bit that falls out, and it is almost always the bit you were looking forward to. When I am eating a BLT, for example, I know that if a bit falls out it is bound to be a bit of bacon, which I like best. Is there a word for the bit that always falls out of a sandwich before you can eat it (and usually goes on your best trousers and leaves a stain in a very awkward place)?

Dr Wordsmith writes: There may well be. Meanwhile, has it ever occurred to you lot to leave sandwiches alone for a while and switch to baguettes?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Talking of baguettes, is there any word for the little, circular label which sandwich shops put on the middle of baguettes? I have often been sitting on a train, munching at a baguette while reading my paper, when suddenly, I have found myself eating the label and almost choked to death. If someone inquires why I am in paroxysms, I start to say, "Because when I was halfway through my baguette, I nearly ate the...". Yes, but the what?

Dr Wordsmith writes: That's enough about baguettes. Anyone got any questions about filled rolls?

Dear Dr Wordsmith: Yes. You know how sometimes when you're taking the first bite from a well-filled roll, you realise that the pressure of your teeth is squeezing the roll in such a way that the contents are beginning to extrude from the far side and that if you are not careful you will lose everything...?

Dr Wordsmith writes: This is disgusting. Luckily, I see the pubs are now open. I shall be back again one day when they are closed.

Keep those questions rolling in!

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