Mental Floss

Weekend Word Wrap: when one word will do

David K. Israel

Recently a friend of mine was telling me that he loves sushi; it's his favorite food, he said. So I said, what kind of sushi? Oh, he said, y'know, negamaki, udon, shabu-shabu, avocado rolls"¦

As you smart readers probably know, none of what he rattled off is technically sushi. Sushi is rice topped with raw fish. I guess it could be a roll, too, but even sashimi, which is the fish without the rice, isn't really sushi.

This got me thinking how we often use one word as a substitute for another. Sushi has come to mean Japanese. Likewise, people will ask for a Kleenex when they want any old tissue, or a Q-tip when they'll really take any cotton swab you offer them.

It's an interesting phenomenon. If you go to a dinner party and ask for a Coke, you'll get whatever cola they've got in the fridge. Chances are, you won't ask for a cola, right?

What other words stand-in for a host of other words? It's the interactive part of the Wrap, folks. Have fun with it"¦