The Linguistics of Cereal

Taking a break from my Air Traffic Control duties for a moment, I was munching away on some breakfast cereal yesterday. I had let my eyes wander to the side of the cereal box on the table in front of me, and I had drifted into that eyeshoneynut glazed over, staring into the half-distance kind of reverie that characterizes so much of my best cogitation. As such, I suppose I sub-consciously knew that something of a revelation was likely to be shortly forthcoming. And behold:

In Canada, the country from which (owing to certain geographic peculiarities) most Juniorvanian staples are imported, there are laws that require all packaging – like, say a cereal box – to be bilingual. What my eyes were staring at, but not really seeing, was this: “Honey Nut Cheerios” are known in French as “Cheerios aux miel et au noix”. Something about that struck me as odd, and I began to mull more aggressively. “Cheerios aux miel et au noix” seemed like a rather clunky handle, one that was an obvious transliteration, stinking rather obviously of the work of a regulatory compliance lawyer. It doesn’t have the lyrical beauty one would expect had it been dreamed up by a marketing executive; far from rolling off the tongue, it kind of spills onto the floor like so much fumbled flatware, clattering noxiously in an otherwise perfect silence.

In that moment, I saw one simple truth. If I were French, rather than having to flex and contort my mouth around “Cheerios aux miel et aux noix”, I would say fuck it and go with Chex instead.