From Max Vasilatos, this fruit crate label on a postcard:

The newsboy is hustling pears, but to modern eyes the label suggests something more salacious. There’s some business in unearthing labels that today have meanings unintended by their creators (two Pansy brand labels here).

In this case, it looks like Hustler is a family name associated with the orchards. But still, we now are inclined to interpret the name in the first or third senses from OED2 below (rather than the second sense):

[1] One who takes part in hustling a person; one of a gang of pickpockets who work on this plan. Also, a thief, a criminal; one who makes his living dishonestly or by begging; a pimp. slang. [from 1825 on]

[2] orig. U.S. An extremely energetic or ‘pushing’ person. Also, a salesman, esp. one who is energetic or aggressive. [from 1886 on]

[3] A prostitute. slang. [from 1924  on; = ‘male prostitute’ in 1960 (Paul Goodman)]

Here’s another label, this time for Texas vegetables:

No doubt the intent was to convey ‘happy Johnny’, but that reading isn’t easily available to people these days.

And then, leaving the world of fruit crate labels, here’s a t-shirt from the Mental Floss people:

On the face of things, this is a simple pun on ranch: a kind of farm (on which cowboys work) or a kind of salad dressing, with an allusion to the advertising slogan:

Hidden Valley.  The Original Ranch® – Makes everything taste better™

(more on this sense of ranch in a moment). That is, a cowboy is better with a ranch.

But if you look at the image with a certain eye, you’ll see the cowboy as a gay icon and the bottle that the smiling cowboy has his arm around as a giant phallic symbol, and maybe you’ll see ranch as suggesting raunch. Probably not intended by the creator of the t-shirt, but the image can be read that way, entertainingly.

Now for notes on the compound ranch dressing and on the truncated version of it, ranch.

The compound is specialized in both of its parts: the head dressing is understood as ‘salad dressing’, and the relationship of ranches to dressings is opaque, arising from a historical association of the dressing in question to a specific ranch, the Hidden Valley Ranch.

The path to dressing starts with a specialized sense of the transitive verb dress. From OED2:

To prepare for use as food, by making ready to cook, or by cooking (also intr. = passive); also, to season (food, esp. a salad). [cites from the 15th century on, first for the salad sense in 1795]

From there we get to a specialized sense of dressing:

Cookery. The seasoning substance used in cooking; stuffing; the sauce, etc., used in preparing a dish, a salad, etc. [first cite 1504]

1853    A. Soyer Pantropheon 75   Lettuces may also be eaten with a dressing of gravy and pickles

OED2 has only one cite for the compound salad-dressing (under salad):

1836    Dickens Sketches by Boz 2nd Ser. 244   An unrivalled compounder of salad-dressing.

No doubt these entries will be improved and expanding in an updating. Meanwhile, NOAD2 has a better (though brief) entry for the noun dressing:

(also salad dressing) a sauce for salads, typically one consisting of oil and vinegar mixed together with herbs or other flavorings : vinaigrette dressing.

• stuffing : turkey with apple dressing.

Now back to the ranch. OED3 (Dec. 2008) has this entry:

ranch dressing n. orig. U.S. a type of creamy salad dressing, typically made with buttermilk or sour cream. [cites from 1962 and 2005]

but without the historical background — which is supplied in the Wikipedia entry:

Ranch dressing is a condiment made of some combination of buttermilk, mayonnaise, salt, garlic, onion, herbs (commonly chives, parsley, and dill), and spices (commonly black pepper, paprika, and ground mustard seed), mixed into a sauce. Sour cream is also frequently used, and some home cooks may substitute yogurt for the mayonnaise to create a lower fat version. Ranch dressing has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, when it overtook Italian dressing. It is also popular as a dipping sauce.

In 1954, Steve and Gayle Henson opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch near Santa Barbara, California. They served guests a dressing that Steve had developed. The dressing was popular, and they began selling bottles that guests could take home, and later opened a factory to sell packets of ranch seasoning that had to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk (packets that are still available to this day).

… At the current time, Clorox subsidiary Hidden Valley Ranch Manufacturing LLC produces ranch packets and bottled dressings at two large factories, in Reno, Nevada and Wheeling, Illinois.

During the 1980s, ranch also became a common snack food flavor, starting with Cool Ranch Doritos in 1987, and Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lay’s in 1994.

Note ranch packets ‘packets of ranch (dressing)’ and the subject noun ranch here (and note “The Original Ranch” cited earlier): ranch dressing has been truncated to ranch. The OED entry for the noun ranch doesn’t (yet) have this sense, but NOAD2 does: “short for ranch dressing“. So ranch is now a snack food flavor, favored by cowboys (especially gay ones).

One Response to “Suggestive”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    It’s even hard to get to “happy Johnny” because the kid looks so somber.

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