evaporated filled milk. a parable.

Nancy and I were walking through the grocery store this week. She knew what she was looking for, I was just looking around. And then, as often happens, I started to laugh.

can of evaporated milkI saw a can of value evaporated filled milk.

For my oddly-wired brain, there were too many points of confusion in these simple words. If it is evaporated, how can there be a can of it? Isn’t evaporating the opposite of filling? Is this milk that is filled with “evaporated”, and if it is, what exactly is “evaporated”? And what makes it a good value–that it is evaporated really well, or filled in a thrifty way or what?

Bakers and cooks, on the other hand (and people who use search engines), spend little time on my mental wanderings.  They know. And the person labeling the can, labeled it for them, not for me.

This morning, there are many people considering words they don’t completely understand.

Some of them are watching explanations of health care plans, considered by scholars and elected leaders and journalists. Some of them are reading Sunday newspapers, trying to sort through a chaotic week in politics and crime and international relations and sports. Some of them are hearing explanations of faith from many sides.

Occasionally, some of us watching and reading and listening will use the same kind of linguistic analysis that I did of the label. We will take the individual words from one context into another, and then talk about how silly the speakers and writers must be.

Sometimes those speakers and writers are trying to confuse.

Sometimes, however, they are talking to people who already have learned how to cook, giving them the ingredients for a nutritious life.

There is a place for those of us who try to explain the labels to cooks and browsers alike. But sometimes, if you are talking to mostly cooks, you can just use the can off the shelf.


2 responses to “evaporated filled milk. a parable.

  1. Marketers certainly aren’t consulting folks like us when they create labels for things.

  2. Words are alive.
    This week I read a facebook post from one of my students in Portuguese. I understood all the words, but came up with – I am going to give a return. My parents are beautiful.
    I asked for a translation and it really meant – I’m going to take a walk. My country is beautiful.
    I don’t know why I share this except to say, take time to really try to understand.