Following up on NO PENGUINS (my 12/4/19 posting here), another adventure in food signage, also initially presented almost entirely without context. This one takes us into the mysteries of punctuation, t/d-deletion in English, and the food practices of modern America.

The impetus:


This is available as a symbol conveying NO PENGUINS, meaning that penguins are not allowed in the signed area or will not be admitted to the signed area (under a penalty of some sort). The slash is the slash of exclusion.

In the earlier posting, no penguin figure appeared in the sign that was the orignal focus; it was an entirely verbal exclusion:

(#2) On the door of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines in New Orleans

And the exclusion was also of entirely metaphorical penguins (young men in sagging pants, with an accompanying atitude).

The slash as punctuation mark. Stunningly multifunctional, as indeed all punctuation marks are: they’re just physical marks, with no intrinsic meanings, and so can be deployed for any number of purposes on different occasions. So it is with the slash (and its variant the backslash), which is used in signage for exclusion, but also as an ordinary punctuation mark with a great many functions. From Wikipedia:

The slash is an oblique slanting line punctuation mark (/). Once used to mark periods and commas, the slash is now most often used to represent exclusive or inclusive or, division and fractions, and as a date separator. It is called a solidus in Unicode, it is sometimes known as a stroke in British English, and it has several other historical or technical names, including oblique and virgule.

A slash in the reverse direction (\) is known as a backslash.

… [uses for conjunction/coordination, especially connecting alternatives, or sometimes (logical) conjunction] The slash is commonly used in many languages as a shorter substitute for the conjunction “or”, typically with the sense of exclusive or (e.g., Y/N permits yes or no but not both).

… Such slashes may be used to avoid taking a position in naming disputes. One example is the Syriac naming dispute, which prompted the US and Swedish censuses to use the respective official designations “Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac” and “Assyrier/Syrianer” for the ethnic group.

In particular, since the late 20th century, the slash is used to permit more gender-neutral language in place of the traditional masculine or plural gender neutrals. In the case of English, this is usually restricted to degendered pronouns such as “he/she” or “s/he”.

… The slash is also used as a shorter substitute for the conjunction “and” or inclusive or (i.e., A or B or both), typically in situations where it fills the role of a hyphen or en dash. For example, the “Hemingway/Faulkner generation” might be used to discuss the era of the Lost Generation inclusive of the people around and affected by both Hemingway and Faulkner.

And now the ellipsis slash of CORN/BEEF. From Mike Pope on Facebook back on 12/3/19, this report from a visit to Portland OR, featuring this scene from Fuller’s Restaurant (Fuller’s Diner / Coffee Shop / Restaurant then serving at 136 NW 9th Ave, in the Pearl District of Portland; I have no idea what the current situation of these establishments is; fortunately, that’s not important to the points in this posting):

(#3) In addition to the classic diner food offered on the menu, the restaurant has daily specials, announced by displaying wall cards, as here

(#4) Two wall cards at Fuller’s

Food background: corned beef, corned beef hash. Brief lexical background, from NOAD:

noun corned beef (also corn beef): North American beef brisket cured in brine and boiled, served hot typically with cabbage, or cold, sliced for sandwiches. ORIGIN early 17th century: corned, in the sense ‘preserved in salt water’, + beef.

noun hash: a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and cooked again, usually with potatoes.

Then from my 3/18/11 posting “Corned beef”:

from OED2, with a bit of reading between the lines.

The entry for the adjective corned starts with the metaphorical ‘formed into grains or particles; granulated’, with the early cites (starting in 1577) referring to substances granulated the way salt is. Then comes the specialized metonymical sense ‘of meat: preserved or cured with salt; salted’, with cites beginning with Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), used of beef, then also of pork. (It seems to be used only of the flesh of “beasts”, not of fowl.)

Then on hash, and corned beef hash in particular, from Wikipedia:

Hash is a culinary dish consisting of chopped up meat, potatoes, and onions fried. The name is derived from French: hacher, meaning “to chop” It originated as a way to use up leftovers. By the 1860s, a cheap restaurant was called a “hash house” or “hashery.”

Canned corned beef hash became especially popular in countries such as Britain, France, and the United States, during and after the Second World War as rationing limited the availability of fresh meat.

…  Classic American corned beef hash originated in the New England region of the United States as a way to use up the leftovers from a traditional boiled dinner of beef, cabbage, potatoes, and onions. A red flannel hash is made with beets instead of potatoes. You can also find salt cod hash or fish hash in New England.

Some actual food, from the Simply Recipes site “Corned Beef Hash”, a piece by Elise Bauer:

Have corned beef left over from making corned beef and cabbage? … Make some homemade corned beef hash! Chop it up and fry it up with boiled potatoes and serve with runny fried eggs for breakfast.


[Or, from scratch:] Just sauté some onions, add chopped boiled potatoes and chopped cooked corned beef, and let them sizzle in the pan until browned and crispy at the edges

corned beef (also corn beef). From NOAD, above. And there lies a complex story. (I am inching up on CORN/BEEF, I promise, in small conceptual increments; bear with me.)

From my 1/1/20 posting “Usage notes from the kitchen”:

Also well attested is the omission of the final stop in word-final … C + t/d (as in /ajm kol/ for /ajm kold/ I’m cold) — a much-studied phenomenon of casual speech in English, known under various names: on this blog, t/d-deletion, with a Page of annotated links to postings on the subject, especially in expressions where the t/d represents the PSP verb inflection in a modifier, notably in Vpsp + N names of food and drink — what I’ll call Food PSPs — among them:

ice tea ~ iced tea, cream corn ~ creamed corn, whip cream ~ whipped cream, chop salad ~ chopped salad, and (also on the menu in [this posting]) corn beef ~ corned beef

t/d-deletion is especially favored utterance-finally and in expressions in which the next word begins with a consonant, as in all of the examples on this list.

In the first instance, t/d-deletion is a simple matter of variation in pronunciation, but many of the simplified Food PSPs have become to some degree conventionalized for some speakers, who have come to treat the two variants as synonymous alternatives and are then inclined to spell them differently. Hence, the spellings ICE TEA, CREAM CORN, CHOP SALAD, CORN BEEF, etc.

Some of these alternatives are so widespread that they are treated as alternatives in dictionaries. For example, from NOAD:

noun iced tea (also ice tea): a chilled drink of sweetened tea, typically flavored with lemon.

[ Plus “noun corned beef (also corn beef)”, above]

CORN BEEF is then well-attested in all sorts of contexts — for example, on the Cecelia’s Good Stuff site, the “BEST EVER CORN BEEF SANDWICH”:


Whether it is for St. Patrick’s Day or any other day for that matter this is the best Corn Beef Sandwich ever. Built on a grilled buttery brioche bun, with slow cooked corn beef, and topped with a Spicy Coleslaw made with a Hatch Green Chile Dressing this is one tasty sandwich. It is on my personal top ten list of favorite sandwiches!

Ah, CORN BEEF ‘corned beef’. It now seems very likely that what Fuller’s — remember Fuller’s, in Portland? –was trying to convey with


was something like


(where CORN’ represents the /d/-deletion variant of CORNED).

That is, the slash here is an alternative to the apostrophe used to indicate casual-speech shortened variants, as in big ol’ queen, and Auxiliary Reduction variants, as in What’s that? as an alternative to What is that?

Such a use of slash would be clearly nonstandard, but it’s not crazy, since it would connect with the uses of slash (catalogued above) to serve implicitly in place of or and and — other uses in which slash, in a sense, conveys some linguistic material that has been left out.

Irrelevant but interesting addendum. The obvious first understanding of CORN/BEEF (with head HASH or otherwise) would, of course, involve the conjunctive understanding ‘corn and beef’, and there are plenty of such dishes — just not any that are classic diner offerings such as you might expect at Fuller’s in Portland OR.

Corn and beef dishes (from a net search) include:

Tex-Mex black bean, corn, and beef stew; crock pot corn and ground beef chowder; (Chinese stir-fried) pepper corn [corn kernels with black pepper] and [ground] beef

Several of these sound mightly tasty, though you’re probably not going to find them at any place like Fuller’s.

4 Responses to “CORN/BEEF”

  1. Rod Williams Says:

    Corned beef hash & eggs—my favorite breakfast!

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I have also seen soured cream for what most people call sour cream. There’s nothing wrong with sour as an adjective, of course, but perhaps the version with -ed is used to emphasize the fact that the commercial product is “soured” deliberately, rather than having spoiled from being left out of of the refrigerator.

  3. Michael Vnuk Says:

    I wonder if the omission of ‘-ed’ is due to to the more general omission of any inflections.

    For example, when I (Australian, born late 1950s) first heard of software to check spelling it was a ‘spelling checker’. Now it is a ‘spellchecker’ or even just ‘spellcheck’.

    Similarly, a ‘swimming team’ would compete at a ‘swimming centre’. Now I often hear ‘swim team’ at a ‘swim centre’. (In contrast, I’ve never heard of a ‘fence team’ for people who participate in fencing.) I grew up with the term ‘skipping rope’. I was later surprised to hear it referred to as a ‘jump rope’ in American English, rather than, say, ‘jumping rope’. (Oddly, I see websites selling ‘skipping ropes’ and ‘jump ropes’, so maybe there is a nuance in meaning that I am missing.) You would hear about people going on a ‘diving trip’, but now it is a ‘dive trip’.

    We cooked with a ‘frying pan’, but it is often now called a ‘frypan’. We had a ‘cooking book’ or a ‘cookery book’, but most people just say ‘cookbook’ these days.

    People used to refer to ‘spending’ (eg ‘We have to get our spending under control’), but it is often just ‘spend’ now.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The alternative compound constructions — N + N vs. Vprp + N — in no way involve “omission” of inflections, either historically or synchronically. (You appear to believe that longer expressions are always the “source”, in some sense, of shorter ones, and that’s just false.) These are just alternatives; one or the other version has been conventionalized in particular cases, but in principle both are available. And then there’s the fact that the N + N construction is historically older, with the participial construction an innovation.

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