Wednesday, November 2, 2016

52 Words for Tofu

There is a ongoing controversy surrounding a quote attributed to the novelist Margaret Atwood: “
The Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” The quote is controversial for a couple of reasons, both leading back to the cultural and linguistic nuances of the polar-dwelling, indigenous people commonly referred to in the U.S. as Eskimos. The concept of the “52 words” has its origins in the work of linguist and anthropologist Franz Boas, who wrote about the expansive and expressive language characteristics he observed and learned while living with the Inuit of Baffin Island in Canada in his 1911 book, Handbook of American Indian Languages.

The controversy swirls because first, there is no singular Eskimo language; those referred to as “Eskimos” are actually mainly Inuit and Yupik populations found in the Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia that are not united by a singular language or culture. Second, it is not so much that the languages and dialects have so many delightfully evocative words for snow: it is that the languages are polysynthetic, meaning that they employ root or base words that scores of suffixes can be attached to so one “word” can actually be turned into a complex and descriptive sentence, which could be described as a sentence-word. Atwood’s observation remains the same, though: snow was important to these populations – the ratios of water to powder, how packable it is, how dry – and so the more vivid and descriptive the language was for capturing its nuances and characteristics, the better. (This was even more true for describing ice as their safety depended on understanding the different qualities of it.) According to my research, the idea of “Eskimos” having many more words for snow than we do is thought to be an exaggeration by some linguists and thought to be correct by others given the unique attributes of polysynthetic languages.

All that said, I think we need as many words for tofu as it is as important in the life of many vegans as snow and ice to polar inhabitants. I have identified these words for tofu. What would you add to the list?
What would you call it?

1. Crispy-edged tofu: Crunchfu
2. Mushy tofu: Mufu
3. The pieces of tofu that stick to the pan: Stuckfu
4. Tofu that is expired: Wastefu
5. Tofu that you are happy to find in the back of your fridge: Gratitufu
6. Paneer mistaken as tofu at the Indian buffet: Fauxfu
7. Frozen tofu: Frofu
8. The tofu you eat in privacy: Bashfu
9. The pointlessness of tofu cooked with meat at a restaurant: Dumbfu
10. The tofu you are using to replace meat in a recipe: Subfu
11. Disappointing tofu: Flopfu
12. The right tofu for the right situation: Apropofu
13. Tofu that is good for a hangover: Curefu
14. Little bits of tofu that have broken off in a stew or soup: Bitfu
15. Whole blocks of tofu: Wholefu
16. Mashed tofu: Mashfu
17. The tofu that tofu-resistant people find themselves liking: Populofu
18. Tofu that is cold to your hands: Chillfu
19. Tofu that shakes on a plate that has just been placed in front of you: Quiverfu
20. Gummy tofu: Squishfu
21. Tofu in an open package that has been improperly stored and has thus gone bad: Regretfu
22. The tofu you eat to avoid thinking about the election: Escapefu
23. Tofu that flips out of the pan: Flyfu
24. Tofu triangles: Triangufu
25. Tofu squares: Cubefu
26. Tofu rectangles: Rectangulofu
27. Tofu slabs: Slabfu
28. Tofu that has a perfect texture: Firmfu
29. The tofu you eat while bird-watching: Crowfu
30. The tofu you eat at a break up dinner: Singlefu
31. Tofu that falls off your cutting board: Lowfu
32. Tofu that sticks to your knife after you slice it: Stickyfu
33. The tofu that frat boys will eat when no one is watching: Brofu
34. Tofu that sizzles when it hits a perfectly hot, perfectly seasoned pan: Sputterfu
35. Fancy tofu: Froufu
36. The tofu you eat while reading your favorite horror story: Poefu
37. The tofu that falls off the shish kebab stick into your grill: Dratfu
38. Visiting a town that has no tofu: Lackfu
39. Tofu that is easy to pick up with chopsticks: Triumphfu
40. Tofu that is nearly impossible to pick up with chopsticks: Foilfu
41. Tofu that squeaks ever so slightly between your teeth: Peepfu
42. Tofu that you thought you had but you don’t: Nofu
43. Tofu that you’re not sure about because of its disconcerting beige color: Doubtfu
44. The tofu you crave on a quiet, wintry night: Snowfu
45. The tofu you eat when you are feeling angry at someone: Mofu
46. The off-brand tofu you shouldn’t have bought: Brokefu
47. The tofu you cooked in a chaotic kitchen: Snafu
48. Tofu that is taking too long to cook: Slowmofu
50. Tofu you paid too much for: Doughfu
51. The tofu you have at your wedding: Matrimofu
52. Tofu you eat when depressed: Woefu


  1. What, no comments yet? But this is such an awesome list! Soooo, I would have to add:

    53. The tofu you eat after reading a list you wish you had written yourself: Envyfu ;)

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