37 Comments

  1. Pedantic malicious compliance in opposition to unnecessary redundant tautology? If the Sarge wanted a tuna sandwich he should have said just that, and Toothsome would have opened a can and dumped it on the bread. But by asking for tuna fish he got the whole fish, thus preserving a fine distinction between “tuna” (the filling) and “tuna fish” (the creature), even though tuna fish for the animal is eliminable redundancy.

    Tuna radio is a different thing, and tuna violin.

  2. “Toothsome”?

    I think the joke is only Zero would make this error. But I’m not sure it needs to come down on either side of the dispute.

  3. I don’t think “tuna sandwich” precludes sticking an entire tuna between two pieces of bread. Whether you say “tuna” or ‘tuna fish” makes no significant difference to the situation.

  4. Even though plenty of restaurants have items like grilled tuna on the menu, I think sarge is of the expectation that, at least in this locale, “tuna fish sandwich” implies a tuna salad sandwich. As Ianosmand pointed out, this particular gag would have worked with either “tuna fish” or “tuna” in the setup. It has nothing to do with the language redundancy.

  5. I can only halfway agree with the developing consensus.

    Of course Zero is not trying to make the pedantic point against saying “tuna fish”. He’s just being himself, and doing his best to fulfill the request as he understands it. (Interesting that Sarge places a request, and not an order.)

    However, the author is surely on the pedants’ side, and is using Zero’s error to answer the anti-pedants’ position that departure from traditional “rules” really doesn’t matter so long as the communication succeeds. “Who could possibly misunderstand ‘tuna fish’ to mean a whole fish?” they might ask. And the author answers with “This guy!” .

    [All of us are cooperatively setting aside the possible complaint that this is not a realistic idea of the size and appearance of an actual tuna. Fish.)

  6. Tuna and tuna fish are two distinct things. Tuna is a steak, or other recognizable piece of a tuna. Tuna fish comes in a can (it was put there by a man…)

    So, a tuna salad is greens with grilled tuna on it. A tuna fish salad is canned tuna with mayo and celery.

    This is a hill I will die on.

  7. You know how Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) outsources many of her columns (podcasts)? This can result in clashing approaches.

    This 2009 column (“Are You Annoyingly Redundant?”), while it does not bring up tuna fish, is rather one-sidedly deprecating over PIN number, future plans, and so on, only grudgingly acknowledging the supposed redundancies may be sometimes helpful to clarity, and not generally allowing they may sometimes just be stylistically superior.

    And then this one from 2016 (“Delete These Words to Crush Redundancy”) , while it makes a joke about tuna fish for lunch, generally avoids those old standard examples and takes a sane stylistic outlook.

  8. Danny Boy — I think that’s not an unrealistic size for a small example of the smallest member of the tuna family. A “little tuny” averages about three feet long as an adult, but can be caught at two feet long. So that’s probably about the smallest the fish could reasonably be, but I think it sneaks in as plausible.

    Barely.

  9. I would generally agree with bpostow. I would understand “tuna” to mean a filet or steak and “tuna fish” to be the crushed/hashed/generally canned version of the meat (and generally pronounced without pause, as if it were a single word – “tunafish”). That said, “tuna salad” is generally understood where I am from to be made with tuna fish, not a tuna steak on a salad. A while a tuna sandwich and a tuna fish sandwich might be understood as being different, if someone asks you what kind of sandwich you want and you reply simply “tuna”, it is likely to be understood as a request for a tuna fish if not tuna salad sandwich.

  10. I am in 100% agreement with “PIN number”. Countless times it has caused me to struggle to remember what PIN stands for. Most of the rest I think are nutty (although I’m on the fence about “joined together”; I doubt that anyone here would say we should eliminate the word, “conjoined”).

    But for God’s sake, free yourselves of these unchecked, unedited grammar sites that don’t allow comments.
    https://www.shutterstock.com/search/tuna+fruit

  11. I think we have to view this as though the joke were he asked for a cold-cut sandwich so Zero takes a peanut-butter sandwich and puts in the fridge and nicks it with a razor.

    It’s not so much that Zero wouldn’t refer to sliced meats or canned tuna as “cold cuts” or “tuna fish” himself, so much as in his dimness he doesn’t take context into account at all and does everything literal-mindedly.

    I suppose the humor is a bit like the “Call me a cab” joke. We aren’t supposed to think the stupid person is so stupid as to not know what a cab is, but that the stupid person is so out of it that all possible interpretations of “Call me a cab” are to his mind equally valid.

  12. Forget redundancies, let’s pick on pronunciations: does anyone else find those who say, “chewna” to be weird? I don’t know that I would have noticed first hand, but when questioned about it by someone for whom English is a second language, I started to notice it, and now I can’t go back… (Specifically, the hard plosive ‘t’ sound straight to the ‘oo’ versus the ‘t’ going through an indeterminate length “sh” before coming to the ‘oo’ — I couldn’t hear the difference before (“what? T is t…”), but focusing on it, I now can’t unhear it…)

  13. larK, a friend of mine was skeptical about how common that affrication is heard in General American speech … until I asked her to say tree and she heard herself say chree.

  14. WAWASMP? (Why are we acronyzing so many phrases?) Is it really so difficult to type out 5 words?

    I’d really like to know what bpostow thinks potato salad or macaroni salad looks like.

  15. JL says: That's a tiny tuna fish! Do you know just how large they can get?

    That’s what I thought, but IanOsmond responded there is a kind that can be that small.

  16. Mitch: wow, I’m never going to be unable to unhear “tchree” now, especially as it turns out, unlike tuna, that’s exactly how I say it, but if you’d asked me before I would have sworn I was saying it “tree”…

  17. And the kitchen just happens to have whole fish in it ….

    Is Beetle Bailey in the Navy now? Are we on board a ship? Perhaps a tuna fishing boat?

    Or is Zero like Harpo Marx? Someone asks Harpo for a dime for a cup of coffee; Harpo takes a steaming hot cup of coffee out of his coat pocket. Groucho needs the official seal to stamp on the document; “Where’s the seal? Where’s the seal?” Out of nowhere Harpo produces a live seal and plops it on the desk.

  18. larK and Mitch:

    I once was trying to convince a friend that he/we/anglophones said the “ch” sound in words beginning with “tr”, like “tree”, “truck”, and “triangle”. He wouldn’t believe me, even after saying those words out loud.

    He claimed that he was pronouncing the initial “T” sound as /t/.

  19. “W00zy, but I thought you are a cab!” only if you are dyslexic.

    “He claimed that he was pronouncing the initial “T” sound as /t/.”

    Well, I do. But after practicing, a more sibilant “tch” by putting the tough a micrometer further back and a microdyne less force on the roof of the moutch is a fairly natural and acceptable pronunciation. But I don’t do that.

  20. I think the only people I know who would say “chewna” are English and have fairly posh accents.

  21. I thought it was about how people say “tuna fish sandwich” when they mean “tuna salad sandwich”, not about “tuna fish” being redundant. Though I suppose if you have to draw a distinction between “tuna” and “tuna fish”, it would make sense to be the whole fish and not the steak.

  22. Boise Ed forgot to mention he used an “ATM machine”.

    Funny thing though, “AT machine” or “PI number” don’t look/sound right as alternatives.

    Also, in terms of tuna vs tuna-fish, I might say “tuna salad” but still say “tuna-fish sandwich”. And if I heard “tuna” by itself I wouldn’t think it to mean a type of steak. I might actually think it to mean the whole fish in general. Also note that the “-fish” label also appends cod as in “codfish cakes.”

    In the grand scheme o’ things I don’t consider the “-fish” suffix to be redundant, it’s just an old-fashioned descriptor. “Tuna-fish” just rolls off the tongue.

  23. I don’t say “chewna” but I do say “the forchewn teller wants to tell your forchewn.”

  24. MarkInBoston and larK — There are different degrees of affrication or palatalization involved. For me, MiB’s forchewn teller is more than I’m used to hearing, but wouldn’t be disturbing or amazing. OTOH a somewhat palatalized fortyoon is my own pronunciation and the one I think is majority General American — by a long way ahead of “pure” alveolar-dental fort-toon with a /t/.

    However, that’s for the word fortune and things are different for plain tune. Lexico notates it (traditional dictionary key) /t(y)o͞on/ or equivalently IPA /t(j)un/ . The parenthesized (y) or (j) are shown that way to mean optional; that is, they are saying “either /tun/ or /tjun/”. Their UK pronunciation is given as /tjuːn/ (they only show IPA). That is, the palatal is obligatory (and the vowel is lengthened?).

    While we’re there, UK /ˈfɔːtʃuːn/ or /ˈfɔːtʃ(ə)n/ (two choices) and US (dictionary) /ˈfôrCHən/ or (IPA) /ˈfɔrtʃən/ — one pronunciation, two spellings. Notice they have it affricated in all cases, and don’t recognize what we were writing as fortyoon let alone fort-toon.

  25. Okay – we all know Meryl is odd. When I used to eat tuna fish in sandwiches or straight from the can some 56 years ago (could it really be that long since I was 12?) I would never have the fish itself (I had never heard of or seen anyone eating as a fish – only from the can) nor would I have tuna salad – I don’t eat anything with mayonnaise in it (it is a food texture thing) – I would be eating the contents of the,water-packed, can of tuna – hiding each bite in a lettuce leaf – and it would not be by choice. It was the only fish I could stomach back then on Weight Watchers which required one to eat fish 5 times a week – school lunch every day instead of my beloved peanut butter – no jelly – sandwiches.

    I no longer even eat tuna from the can – closest I come to eating fish is shrimp, preferably boiled and plain,definitley no sauce.

    And yet, my mom does not remember me being a picky eater?!

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