Like everyone else, I was somewhat taken aback recently over the news of the legal case filed against Taco Bell claiming that only 65% of the substance in TB’s foodstuffs that were identified as being meat were actually comprised of meat.  The other 35% was made up of a vegetable mush that was mixed with the meat to extend the amount of what might jokingly be called food before it was tucked neatly into its happy yellow taco.


Now, my first response in reading this was the somewhat ironic feeling that perhaps Taco Bell isn’t as bad for you as I thought it was and that perhaps some cruel vegan, who had infiltrated the hierarchy of the Taco Bell empire had managed to work some actual vegetable matter (other than the lettuce and tomato) into TB’s meals.


But then I read another article somewhere.  And how I hate that–the somewhere of it all.  I usually reserve my tirades for things that I can at least link to from here at Psora, Psora, Psora, if not present for you right here.  But this time it is the vague “I read it somewhere” that will have to do.  And, at least I have the Taco Bell case itself to fall back on if I have to.  (For those of you who are not up to date on the Taco Bell case, try looking at this link here for an article posted this month from the Los Angeles Times,  or this link here for a statement from Taco Bell headquarters (while watching the video statement, please note just how healthy Taco Bell’s president looks–he’s obviously been eating the tacos himself), or, finally, this link, which I thought addressed the issue rather well.


Back to my original point, which had more to do with the bastardization of language and our resultant distrust of nearly everyone and everything, than with Taco Bell and its bastardization of its taco “meat.”  (Although, as someone who attempts to avoid wheat, I find it outrageous that taco bell can legally be allowed to use wheat as an “extender” in what is traditionally thought of as a gluten-free product, a taco.)


And my original point had to do specifically with the term “All Meat.”  In the mystery article I read and then misplaced, it was stated that, when the term “all meat” is used in any restaurant’s advertising, such as McDonald’s famous “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,”  that only 70% of the meat-containing substance needs to be actual meat.  Which certainly wrinkles up my aged forehead as I ponder the nu-speak meaning of “all.”


As I learned it, the word “all” meant:  “used to refer to the whole quantity or extent of a particular group or thing,” as the word is defined in the dictionary that is embedded in my Mac’s Snow-Leopard-addled brain.  In other words, all used to mean “every bit of,” that no part or subset of something was put aside, but the entirety of an object or group was included.


But in this new world of austerity and downsizing, “all” now seems to mean “around 70%.”  In other words, when considering what we mean with we refer to “all” of something, about three quarters is good enough for government work.  And in using the term “government work,” I am indeed pointing fingers.  Because it is our government that those wise men and women who make it up, who are allowing for these strange and subtle changes in our language that is shifting our day-to-day speech from English to nu-speak whether we like it or not.


And the biggest trouble with this switch is that nu-speak does not come with a dictionary built in, as my computer did.  No, we are left to discover for ourselves what the restaurant world means when it says, “all meat.”  And in the same way, we are left to wonder over the meaning of our credit card statements (Want to leave that in the dust?  Publish a few books and then try to figure out the royalty statements that your publisher sends you.), our tax forms, and every single advertisement on television, in print, on radio or on the internet that has small print or quickly spoken words incorporated.  In other words, when they are using simple words spoken in English to tell you something, or, especially, to sell you something, it is up to you to figure out why and how they are lying…


How did we get this way?  How did we let the “all” fall out of all, the way air slips out of a tire?  Don’t even try to tell me that it was Bill Clinton’s fault for asking what the meaning of “is” is.  It goes so much deeper than that…


Let’s look to the lobbyists, those fine folk whose job it is to represent the viewpoint of one paying customer to your representatives in government, whether that customer represents your point of view or not (and, in cases such as the misrepresentation of the contents of a simple meal, it is highly likely that they are not), and I think we will find the creators of nu-speak.  The water carriers for these lobbyists are, of course, our representatives themselves, who all too often sell your human rights and mine to the highest bidder.  In this case, they have literally sold our language out from under us so that a term as simple as “all” has taken on a new legal meaning.


It Taco Bell wins its case, something more than all beef tacos at low, low prices will be lost.  Our language will be lost.  And with it will be our ability to communicate, to understand and be understood.  Language only works is can all agree on the meaning of the words.  If your version of the meaning of the word “left” is what I consider to be “right” then we are going to have trouble driving on the same road.  And if businesses are continued to be allowed to change the meaning of a word as simple as “all” in order to make a few cents more profit on each of their products, then how far away are we from the day when we have all been so manipulated so often by the misuse and bastardization of our language that we can no longer believe anything that anyone is saying.  There’s more at stake than meat here, boys, there’s a deep and profound course correction that is needed for the sake of us all.  And, by “all” I mean more than 70%.