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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

suggestive oxymoron, or, nocturnal reverie

I made a stunning discovery today: 'Burger King' is an oxymoron. No, not because burgers are distinctly non-regal meat products, but because a burger is a commoner, and a commoner cannot be king.

According to the OED, a burgher is:
'An inhabitant of a burgh, borough, or corporate town; a citizen. Chiefly used of continental towns, but also of English boroughs, in a sense less technical than burgess. Now somewhat arch.'
I do recognize that the fast-food chain spells the word without the letter H, but that variant is included among the quotations provided in the OED's entry. Shakespeare used it in act 1, scene 1, line 10 of The Merchant of Venice:
'Your minde is tossing on the Ocean,
There where your Argosies with portlie sayle
Like Signiors and rich Burgars on the flood,
Or as it were the Pageants of the sea,
Doe ouer-peere the petty traffiquers
That cursie to them do them reuerence
As they flie by them with theyr wouen wings.'
(Quoted from the First Quarto, 1600)

In 1660, in what may be an inadvertent precursor of the dollar menu, economist Roger Coke wrote, 'A Burger who hath...half a mark, let him pay a Peter-peny.'

Taking the idea of the 'burgher king' seriously, what could it mean? Perhaps it is meant to imply the dignity of the common man, in the tradition of Huey Long's famous 'Every Man a King' speech of 1934:
'Those are the things we propose to do. "Every man a king." Every man to eat when there is something to eat; all to wear something when there is something to wear. That makes us all sovereign.'
The promise of ubiquitous food at any hour of the day that one desires it is, after all, the promise of fast food. And it is this promise—of the uninterrupted satisfaction of consumer wants—that Burger [sic] King would have us believe will make us sovereign.

But I ask you, Reader, will it? Or will it enslave us to manufactured desires and drive us to a level of overproduction and overconsumption that will lead to mass obesity and global warming? I will have none of the Burgher King and his false promises. Down, I say, with the Burgher King and all tyrants everywhere!

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Blogger Luke West said...

Yes, but they have quite an excellent BK Big Fish if you don't eat meat.

1:38 PM, April 29, 2008

Anonymous Meat Patty said...

I was very sad when they starting frying their fries in chicken fat, or whatever weird thing it is they do to keep them over-crispy and artificially hot, like a Pop Tart fresh from the toaster. Since then I have often walked past a Burger King, jonesing for a sugary beef combo, and sadly had to remind myself that their fries taste like ass. Is there any reason, you ask, why I could not buy a Whopper and then pop into the next-door McDonald's for some of their deliciously tasty fries? Yes — because, tragically, not every Burger King has a McDonald's next door.

I would remind you, in taking my leave, of J F Kennedy's notorious solecism in declaring that he was a "Ham Burgher".

2:46 PM, April 29, 2008

Blogger sw said...

I like your transition from the Burghers of Calais to the Burgers of Malaise; may I suggest you read the wonderful Omnivore's Dilemma, which is the 2007/2008version of the 1990s Captain Corelli's Mandolin phenomenon: every hip young thing won't be seen dead without a copy of it.

4:55 PM, April 29, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

Meat Patty makes the point that BK fries taste like ass, but I would go further. I think all the major fast-food products taste and smell like ass. Of all the sights and sounds of the city, there is one that disheartens me more than the decay of homeless bodies or the fetid aftermath of a CSO on the Gowanus Canal. It is the nauseating cloud that accompanies McDonald's French fries, a stench exacerbated when encountered in the confines of a subway car. Not only have potatoes never before smelled like decades-rotting meat, but it is also the smell of millions of Americans rushing headlong towards the most inelegant of deaths.

As for Kennedy's famous solecism, it has been widely misreported that he declared himself 'a Ham Burgher'. What he actually said was 'Ich bin ein Hamburglar.' The confusion is due to revisionist history perpetrated by the White House after, as this website explains, Richard Nixon became the Hamburglar.

12:17 AM, April 30, 2008

Anonymous 42 said...

I find it hard to accept such condemnation of one of America's corporate jewels from a man obsessed with Tom Carvel & Cookie Puss.

Shame! Shame!

1:33 AM, April 30, 2008

Anonymous the bun burglar said...

To be fair, Chicken McNuggets don't taste like ass; they taste more like cock.

I mean, um, I imagine they do.

Not that I imagine that, like, really hard or anything whenever I am gulping down a sweet pair of nuggets and then swallowing a creamy vanilla shake.

Stop looking at me like that. McDonald's is dude food, alright?

6:48 AM, April 30, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

It is blasphemous to take the names of Tom Carvel and Cookie Puss in vain by associating them with the Pharisees and Sadducees of fast food. How can anyone compare this devilry with this sublime artistry?

2:45 AM, May 01, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

Following up on SW's comment, here is some background information on the Burghers of Calais and the Burghers of Malaise.

2:53 AM, May 01, 2008

Blogger mary said...

thank you jeff hussein strabone fpr your explanation. we need that. i suppose, everyone must think about and know what they really eat..

3:44 AM, June 30, 2008


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