April 3, 2016
So a couple of weeks back we did a blog about chin warmers, which, I should say right up front, was just a lame idea I had to talk about a yummy chilly-day meal we cooked up from adzuki beans and course-ground cornmeal. I allowed the blog to veer off onto a tangent about charcoal broiling in your backyard and my rather pleasant encounter with Chef Dan Patterson out in L.A. a few weeks back. But enough of that because if you really want to know all about that you can just click on the link I embedded into the words ‘chin warmers’ and read the dang thing your own self.
Which gives me an opportunity to launch onto another wholly gratuitous offshoot by pointing out the single quotation marks I put around the words ‘chin warmers’ in the previous paragraph.
Whoops! I did it again! It seems that philosophers and also a few linguistics professors have this deeply ingrained tendency to call our readers’ attention to the fact that we are talking about words rather than actually using them to talk. There are about six occasions on which failing to notice that one is referring to the word itself rather than the thing the word normally refers to can cause really serious confusion. The fact that this seldom causes any dramatic consequences has led ordinary people to ignore the use-mention distinction, and the Wikipedia article on it says that copy editors generally advise against deploying these single quotation marks, as they are more likely to leave the reader sitting there scratching his or her noodle wondering what the who the author was thinking with that one than they are to actually clarify anything. Unfortunately two of those six occasions have absolutely catastrophic consequences for one’s ontological orientation. I’m not going to bore you with which ones.
And we all know how painful losing one’s ontological orientation is, so while I’ve said enough to bring ontological consistency to everyone’s attention, I also realize that I have probably already crossed the line this week into yet another one of those blogs that will have long since left the average reader shaking (rather than scratching) his head and thinking (like Ronald Reagan once said) “There you go again.” And of course we know which one of my two regular readers is the average one.
So in the spirit of straight-ahead dada I’d like to come back to chin warmers. This time without the quote marks, which would mean that I’m now actually talking about foods that warm up your face. We still need these in Michigan this time of the year, but as it happens I am waking up for the second Sunday in a row in a decidedly warmer part of the U.S. of A. This time it would be the Phoenix area. And although it can get surprising cold in desert after the sun goes down, it doesn’t really seem appropriate to be worried about keeping your face warm. Keeping it cool would be more like it.
So in anticipation of my trip, I decided to do some research on chin chillers. I discovered that they are crepuscular rodents, native to the Andes Mountains. I learned that “Since I was young boy, I saw metal bands in big halls,” is a pretty lame quote of Pete Townsend by an 80s German hair band. This research also led me to learn about the controversy over chinchilla ranching (if that’s what it really should be called) in Southern California. While some see chinchilla ranchers as “amazingly kind, bright and dedicated” women, some animal protection organizations are horrified by the very idea. “Whoa!” thought I. “This is taking way to solemn a turn for a blog on chin chilling.”
Notice, however, that in quoting Chinchilla (and my own thoughts) I use ordinary quotation marks. I can tell the difference between use and mention, even if I still have a few lingering difficulties with the ontological virus that plagued Emily Litella so many years ago. Enough of this nonsense! At least for this week.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University