By Dave Simpson, columnist
Answer me this: Do Latinx people eat crudités or cut up vegetables?
We find ourselves in the Language Warp as election day approaches. And asking questions about vaccines or the 2020 election or what to call Latino people can get you branded as a “domestic terrorist,” or a “white supremacist.” And maybe prosecuted in California. (The good news: Your vaccinated and boosted California prosecutor might have to isolate during his third or fourth bout with COVID. Meanwhile, your Herd Immunity will be on the job, protecting you and your fellow colleagues in the herd.)
Years ago, I wrote a column poking fun at a Time Magazine cover story that used the word “crudités” in a bold headline.
“What the ding-dong heck are crudités?” I asked.
An old friend, who moved from Wyoming to the East Coast decades ago, criticized me for being a Flyover Country bumpkin, a stump-jumper, for not knowing that crudités are cut up raw vegetables, which Sophisticated People in big cities eat when they gather for soirees. (Flyover Country people like us are seldom invited to soirees, because we might call crudités cut up vegetables, dip them in Cheez Whiz, and show up in coveralls.)
“Baloney!” I proclaimed, as Flyover Country people are wont to do. I was born at a hospital on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, grew up in a nearby suburb, and never once heard cut up vegetables called crudités.
Chicago, after all, is the city of broad shoulders, hog butcher of the world, and putting on airs and acting fancy-pants will draw a quick rebuke, as if you had put ketchup on a hot dog. The great columnist Mike Royko would have had plenty to say about people who insist on calling cut up vegetables crudités. I shudder to think what he would make of a “charcuterie tray.”
(A university professor in Chicago once complained about dog droppings on the streets of Chicago. Royko responded that if the professor would get his head out of the clouds, thinking great thoughts, and watch where he was walking, he wouldn’t step in something.)
So I’ve been there, done that when it comes to crudités, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. And if I called cut up carrots and celery crudités , my wife would puncture that balloon toute suite. (She took French in college.)
Fast forward to today, and the ill-fated effort on the part of fancy-pants people in the White House and the Democratic Party to suddenly start calling Latino people “Latinx,” so they could immediately start branding anyone (think us) who hadn’t gotten the memo racists. (Ho, hum. Don’t they call everyone racists now? And fascists! That too!) But it turned out that Latino people don’t like to be called Latinx, and even some big shot Democrats like James Carville asked, “Who talks like that?”
So the fancy-pants White House people, including our president, got the message and quit calling Latino people Latinx. The foreign body had been spotted in the punch bowl, and they dropped that linguistic atrocity pronto.
So much so, in fact, that I saw two features on television recently regarding races for governor in New Mexico and Nevada, in which the votes of Latino people were at issue. And neither report, and none of the candidates (some of whom are Latinos) uttered the word Latinx. Message delivered.
So, some linguistic crimes against nature are put out of their misery early, but others (think Bill O’Reilly’s war against “at the end of the day”), like crudités, stick around like Herpes.
But, wait. Consider this: Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, took some heat last week for walking right into Crudité Gulch. He referred to cut up vegetables as crudités, and was instantly called out by Democrats as a fancy-pants Republican elitist, with multiple expensive homes in several states, who can’t relate to gomers like us.
The lesson: Don’t get so impressed with your own brilliance that you start spouting French, and end up stepping in something.
And any candidate with the sense to pour stuff out of a boot should call cut up vegetables what they are:
Cut up vegetables.
And a pox on Latinx.