When I order a hamburger in a restaurant or in my car at a drive-through joint, and tell the employee exactly what I want on my burger, I am often asked: "Would you like cheese on that?"
My first thought is to say, "No, because then, see, it wouldn't be a hamburger. It would be a cheeseburger, which you have right there on the menu, just below 'hamburger.' I ordered a hamburger."
But I don't because that would be rude, and they might put something worse than cheese on my hamburger. I just say, "No, thank you."
I never order ketchup on a hamburger, either, because I like ketchupburgers even less than cheeseburgers.
Ketchup is fine on french fries, and perhaps a couple of other foods -- though the only one I can think of at the moment is onion rings, but onion rings are just french fries from a different mother.
Cheese, on the other hand, is good on just about everything; in fact, it is one of the Four Major Food Groups that flavor every product in the store: cheese, onion, lemon, garlic and jalapeño. OK, Five Major Food Groups.
Cheese and ketchup simply have to learn their place. They are not made for my hamburgers.
When I was a kid, I saw a cartoon that showed a customer in a roadside diner reading a big menu behind the counter listing dozens of burgers: cheeseburger, steakburger, fishburger, chickenburger, vealburger -- on and on. The short-order cook tells the customer, "We have one made with ham, too, but we don't know what to call it."
It's a sad day when you can't tell it like it is because people will misconstrue it. (There's a whole discussion here, or perhaps argument, but let's get back to the subject, which is something to do with words.)
All of this came to mind because as I was shaving one morning I heard mention of a meteorologist on the news.
Now, you and I know that a meteorologist is really a weatherman, or weatherwoman, or, in days of old, a weather girl. It is a person who studies the weather.
But if that's the case, I asked my razor, then what do you call someone who studies meteors?
"An astronomer?" my razor said.
For that matter, I rambled on, why do they say someone had a "meteoric rise," when meteors fall to Earth and don't soar upward?
I'm sure it has to do with brilliance, not direction, but "rise" is all wrong.
A meteor isn't even a meteor all the time. Before it falls into the atmosphere as a bright light, it is a rock floating in space called a meteoroid. Later, if it doesn't burn up on the way down, it becomes a meteorite.
That reminded me of food again. These days you can order "french fries" that are baked instead of fried so they're better for you. French bakes? What's next? A cheeseburger that has no beef?
"They already have that," my razor said. "It's called a cheese sandwich."