Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie goes (as usual) with the familiar over the novel:


Stovepipe hat (an unfamiliar expression for Ruthie) is transformed in Ruthie’s ears into Stove Top Stuffing, a familiar expression in her world (context is crucial!), even though the two are pretty distant phonologically (very imperfect as a pun).

Stovepipe hat and Stove Top Stuffing are both expressions with three elements: two making a N + N compound (stovepipe, stove top) with stove as the first N and the accent pattern characteristic of such compounds, heavier accent on that first N; plus a third N (hat, stuffing) serving as the head, second, element in a larger compound that has a heavier accent on this head. (These heads are not even remotely similar phonologically.) The result in each case is an expression with the overall accent pattern 2 3 1, where the numerals indicate only relative accent levels and are not intended as a phonological analysis (there is some divergence in the analyses of such accent patterns); the main point is that the two expressions have the same “accentual tune”.

Clearly, in Ruthie’s world, Stove Top Stuffing is a familiar food (and stovepipe hats are exotic objects). On the food, from Wikipedia (with an interesting origin story):

Stove Top is a stuffing that was introduced by General Foods in 1972 (merging with Kraft in 1990 to form Kraft General Foods). It is a quick cooking (“instant”) stuffing that is available in supermarkets. Unlike traditional stuffing, Stove Top can be prepared on the stove, in a pot. It is used as a side dish for meals as well as a medium in which some meats (pork, chicken) can be baked. It is sold in boxes and canisters. In 2005 it was reported that Kraft Foods, which has owned the brand since 1995, sells about 60 million boxes of Stove Top stuffing at Thanksgiving.
Ruth Siems was the home economist who first created the product. Her name was the first listed on United States Patent 3,870,803 for the product. Her patent was based on a certain size of bread crumb that makes the rehydration, or addition of water, work. In an interview with the Evansville Courier in 1991, Siems said the idea for the instant stuffing came from the marketing department, but it was up to the research and development staff to create the product. The test kitchens, the chefs, and all the workers in research and development were given an opportunity to develop the stuffing, but Siems’ idea was the one the company chose.

… There are a variety of flavors, including Chicken, Lower Sodium Chicken, Cornbread, Pork, Beef, Savory Herbs, Traditional Sage, Tomato & Onion, San Francisco Sourdough, Mushroom & Onion, Long Grain & Wild Rice and Roasted Garlic, Turkey, Apple and Cranberry.

And here’s some effusive ad copy from the Kraft site:

STOVE TOP stuffing mix is ready for the table in just five minutes! With so many flavors to choose from, STOVE TOP banishes boring from the dinner table throughout the year.

And a display of some of the flavors in boxes:


(As far as I can recall, I’ve never experienced Stove Top Stuffing.)

One Response to “Familiarity”

  1. beslayed Says:

    Probably also “top hat” is involved.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: