Monday, 21 February 2011

The Rules of Ish

WEDNESDAY: I'm eating another eclectic sandwich I have been looking forward to all morning: smoked Cheddar with Waitrose smoky aubergine dip on a Co-Op sunflower seed roll with spring onion, chopped red pepper, chopped green olives, and fresh coriander leaf. It's the UN all in one sandwich, and it's very smoky. It's a wonderfully smoky United Nations, like the UN building on fire. Delicious!

THURSDAY: Today I've got a new tofu from Waitrose: smoked tofu with sesame seeds and almonds. To stay with the Far Eastern theme I've added some coriander leaf and a bit of cayenne-pepper heat, a la Thai cuisine, with the usual vegetable accoutrements. It's a bit of a Japanese Thai marriage in my mouth. Open, Sesame!

THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY: I've got smoky cheddar with sun-dried tomatoes and olives today, and more fresh coriander leaf. I can't believe how perfectly smoke-like this cheddar is. Many "smoked" cheese one buys are only a bit smoky and more salty than anything. You could call them smoky-ish.

Ish-ness is a uniquely British concept. When used as a suffix it's more immediately understandable, as in "I'll be there noon-ish". It becomes a bit more abstract and sometimes mysterious when it's used alone, as in "Are you all right?" "Ish." In this context it can be construed to be a contraction of "Yes, I'm all right -ish" which means "Yes, I'm all right, I think, but perhaps not entirely -- and maybe not very all right at all." Or take the question "Are you coming to the party tonight?" If a person is indeed coming to the party they might say "Yes, definitely" or "Is the Pope Catholic?" But if they reply with "Ish" they mean "Yes, I think so -- I mean it would probably be fun. It depends on if I can get away from work/if I can get my laundry done/if I don't suddenly come up with prior commitments/if I don't fall asleep in my chair. I'm probably not that bothered, actually, but I'll see if I feel like it."

The other day I was involved in an argument about the rules of ish. One friend texted saying he would meet us at the pub at "5:50-ish". At 6:03 he texted again saying he would be "5 minutes-ish". Upon his arrival my other friend claimed that he had broken the laws of ish-ness because he was not allowed to do any other ish inside of an existing ish. When I learned he had taken the 52 bus from town to the pub, I submitted that because the 52 route that time of day is an especially ishy route (because the time it takes to travel from town to the pub can be variable in the extreme), nested ishes are permissible in such cases.

Obviously in nested ishes each succeeding generation of ish becomes more subjective and less credible, with a great-great-great-great grandchild ish being negligibly believable.

And so it continues, this debate about the Rules of Ish and the potentially complicated process of amending an existing ish.

Is this why Ishi was discovered in the mountains of Northern California in 1911, still living an ancient Native American lifestyle?

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