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Perdue Chicken Ad Misses a Beat
Perdue Chicken ad gets recursive noun phrase wrong.
Topic Rating: +1 (1 votes) 
2013/05/29
5:35am
Glenn
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A recent Perdue ad tries to get mileage from the old adage "You are what you eat." They want to underscore that their chickens are fed wholesome diets. They say "You are what you eat eats." But they should say "You are what what you eat eats."

In the sentence "what you eat" is a particular type of noun phrase (NP), a nominal relative clause.

To do what Perdue wants, you need to create an outer nominal relative clause. The nominal relative "what you eat" is the inner nominal relative clause, and it becomes the subject of the outer relative clause "what [what you eat] eats"
To simplify a bit, let's get to Perdue's point:
1) You are what you eat
2) A chicken is what it eats
3) You are what a chicken eats

If a chicken is "what you eat" you can substitute the nominal relative "what you eat" for the noun phrase "a chicken" in sentence 3). "You are what what you eat eats."

Never mind the implication that you are a chicken. Glide right past that. But Perdue needs better copy editors.

Perdue's "You are what you eat eats."

2013/05/29
8:16am
Dick
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You are correct. However, if I were one of Perdue's copy editors, thinking about the overall appeal of the ad, I would choose what they chose. I believe that "Winston tastes good."

2013/05/29
8:57am
Glenn
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Maybe you are right. But there are differences. For over a century in English, like and as have been used interchangeably in this context. One encounters this commonly and frequently. Although grammar sticklers might bristle, it is part of the daily vernacular.

In the other case, I would be surprised if most people ever use two embedded nominal relatives or even encounter them. People just don't tend to think that way. It is too complicated. You will hear things like "What you see is what you get." But these nominal relatives are not embedded or nested.

As a result, I think it is the responsibility of the ad copy editors, if they choose to use that kind of complex construction, to get it right.

The Winston ad used the vernacular, and succeeded. The Perdue ad is attempting to use something very uncommon and very sophisticated, but is doing it incorrectly.

2013/05/29
11:28am
RobertB
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It sounds so right at first- probably most people (among whom I am) won't even notice the hollow sound of it.  But once you pay attention, it does look sloppy.
Though I bet it was a conscious choice, sacrificing grammar for the crisped sound.

 

2013/05/30
12:13pm
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Glenn said

To simplify a bit, let's get to Perdue's point:
1) You are what you eat
2) A chicken is what it eats
3) You are what a chicken eats

I wonder if Perdue's ad agency was inspired by a bumper sticker, "Vegetables aren't food. Vegetables are what food eats."

2013/05/30
12:53pm
Glenn
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I had no idea there were such militant anti-veganites!

I might come up with a bumper retort: "Anti-veganites aren't people. Anti-veganites are what a cannibal eats."

2013/05/30
4:21pm
RobertB
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Or this, because our meats are practically walking pharmacies:

You take what you eat.
2014/03/19
8:26pm
CallmeE
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I'm so glad I'm not the only one!  If their objective was to make sure their advertising sticks in our heads, they've certainly succeeded :(

Wish I could stop thinking about *why* it needs that extra "what".

In any case, I've got the solution:  "You are what your FOOD eats". 

Any Perdue scouts in the audience?  Say the word and I'll send you the address to which you may mail me a check.

 

 

\

2014/03/20
3:35am
deaconB
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All my life, most of my vegetables have come from gardening. And I've always favored organic fertilizers.

If I am what my veggies eat, I missed out on a great career in politics.

2014/03/20
6:42am
polistra
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If we wanted to get really persnickety, we'd have to specify that most plants don't eat.  They use sunlight and air and electrons to generate edible material, then offer it to animals in a nice detachable tasty form.  Only a few rarities like Venus Flytraps actually eat in the same sense that animals eat. 

 

When I eat a tomato, I'm not really entitled to say "I am what the tomato plant ate."  The difference in value and intention is too great.  All I can honestly say is "Thank you for performing a miracle and offering it to me."

2014/03/21
12:50am
deaconB
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polistra said
If we wanted to get really persnickety, we'd have to specify that most plants don't eat.  They use sunlight and air and electrons to generate edible material, then offer it to animals in a nice detachable tasty form.  Only a few rarities like Venus Flytraps actually eat in the same sense that animals eat. 

 

When I eat a tomato, I'm not really entitled to say "I am what the tomato plant ate."  The difference in value and intention is too great.  All I can honestly say is "Thank you for performing a miracle and offering it to me."

Plants are  mostly water, as are people.  And except for the rare "air plants" like spanish moss, they cannot survive long without liquid water. Nor, for that matter can we. The reason burnt foods are inedible is that they've been dessicated.

When you eat bread, you're not accepting the gift of the wheat plant. You're eating it, same as eating whole hog sausage kinda ruins those retirement plans for swine.  Vegetarian species are generally stupider than carnivores, because plants move more slowly, and it takes no great wit or courage to sneak up on them.  Brains are "expensive" to support, and unless they pay for themselves, they are a liability in evolutionary terms.  Morally, vegetarians are just bullies who prey on the least mobile.

Not that plabts are entirely defenseless., as you'll fund from dining on a green salad of tomato leaves and stems. Or from consuming hydrogenated vegetable fats instead of those animal fats which contain cholesterol, a life-affirming precursor to hormones and Vitamin D, instead of deadly trans fats.

Cattle and swine die that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.  You could base a religious ritual on something like that, with priests distributing the elements of sausage and gravy.

2014/03/21
5:54am
Glenn
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Boy, did this conversation take a bad hop! I'm feeling a littlel qualmish. I'm banning myself from this thread so I can enjoy lunch.

2014/03/21
6:43pm
RobertB
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CallmeE said
I'm so glad I'm not the only one!  If their objective was to make sure their advertising sticks in our heads, they've certainly succeeded :(
Wish I could stop thinking about *why* it needs that extra "what".
In any case, I've got the solution:  "You are what your FOOD eats". 

E:  They probably won't like yours because it is right.  They'd rather mess with people's head  a little.  

2014/03/29
1:08pm
Oliver Faltz
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If you extend this idea into the realm of fish, it might get rather icky. If you eat big, fatty sea fish, they live on smaller fish. Catfish is delicious, right? Catfish eat mostly rotting stuff on the bottom of rivers and lakes. Bass is wonderful. Bass eat bugs, crawfish, salamanders, and smaller fish (including some of their own children.) Tilapia is delightful, as you know. I cooked some last night. Let me tell you where most of it comes from.

Farm-raised trout and salmon are mostly raised in big concrete pens. When they are big enough to harvest, workers use nets to sweep them all out of the pen, and they leave behind a whole lot of fish poop. Instead of gathering and discarding it, the farmers simply drop in thousands of fingerling tilapia. Tilapia are a great fish crop, because you don't have to feed them. They'll happily eat up the salmon poop. When they're full grown, you not only get a nearly-free crop, but they cleaned up all the salmon poop! What a deal!

So, if you believe that you are what your food eats, maybe you are bugs, rotting muck, and fish poop.

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