An open letter to whoever’s in charge.

Dear Whoever’s In Charge,

I would like to discuss the awkward position in which you have placed me as an educator and scholar of American ethnic literature. Specifically, I would like to know whose idea it was to adopt the term “tossed salad” to describe a certain recreational activity, and why you allowed this coinage to catch on. This was a bad decision for several reasons. First of all, it doesn’t make any sense. That particular phenomenon in no way resembles a “tossed salad” from any possible perspective. A tossed salad is leafy and crisp and doused in vinaigrette or possibly ranch dressing. Sometimes you find a cherry tomato or a crouton. The so-called “tossed salad” involves none of these things. Or maybe it does, and I’m aging myself by not being able to imagine how this is possible. If that is the case, I prefer to be ignorant.

Okay, I can imagine how vinaigrette or possibly ranch dressing might be involved, but like I said, I’d really rather not.

Secondly, and more importantly for my professional purposes, by allowing this term currency in the contemporary American lexicon, you have enabled the occurrance of such scenes as the following in my daily life.

Setting: My Asian American Literature class

[The class is discussing R. Zamora Linmark’s Rolling the R’s, which, incidentally, is a totally fantastic book that everyone should read. A student refers to a moment in the text that counters the image of America as a “melting pot” with the image of Hawai’i as a “volcano.” I move to the chalkboard to offer a visual representation of how the volcano inverts and upsets the melting pot.]

Me: Now, you may recall that earlier in the semester we discussed the concept of the “melting pot” as a model of American diversity, and some of the critiques of that model.

Students: [Blank, somewhat sleepy stares.]

Me: For example, some proponents of multiculturalism in the late 20th century suggested that America was less of a “melting pot” than a “tossed salad.” Which, unfortunately, is also the term for a certain other thing, which is dirty, so I won’t explicate. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Students: [Big, wide-eyed, very awake stares.]

Me: What? You do know what a “tossed salad” is, right?

Students: [A few weak, frightened nods. Mostly more staring.]

Me: Good, because I’m not going to tell you. That’s not my job.

Student: Is this really happening?

Me: Apparently it is. Look, I just want you to know that I know what is coming out of my mouth. It’s not my fault. Now, back to the issue. First there was the “melting pot,” then then there was the “tossed salad.”

Student: You’re not going to draw that, are you?

Me: No.

So no, it’s not my fault, it’s your fault that this is the kind of thing that happens to me when I’m simply trying to educate the youth. And, frankly, I would like to know how you’re going to make it up to me.

Thank you for your time.

Lady Z

30 thoughts on “An open letter to whoever’s in charge.

  1. Oh, lord. *E-F struggles valiantly to recall any times in the past few years she might have, in total ignorance, shocked her students with sex talk when they thought we were discussing literature or, worse, food*

  2. I suppose it could be worse. These could be high school students that are answering in the affirmative rather than college kids.

    Fortunately, for all the fun of teaching high school students I can ask my brother-in-law for his stories (horror and otherwise) about teaching in NJ.

    I thank you for the humor break in this otherwise distressingly boring day.


  3. “Tossed salad” took me by surprise, too, when I heard it’s newest, if not shiniest, definition. How on godsgreenearth did that term get coined? Someone needs to lead me through the steps.

    Some terms I’ve been introduced to have caused me no end of amusement, some have confused me (as does the above), and some have been so mind-bendingly out of my orbit that I’m still staggered by them. Now, imagine this setting:

    We’re on the playground. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and schoolmates of ours are running by, shouting and laughing. We’re standing in a clutch and I lean in:

    “You wanna hear a really awful one I heard recently?”

  4. Learning…always learning…

    Believe it or not, I didn’t know what a “tossed salad” was either, it having been some time since I spent any time with Andy Dick. So I too went to the Urban Dictionary and became…I dunno if ‘enlightened’ is the word for it, but I do understand now. And I also learned the meanings for “tossing a Caesar Salad” (which is even worse than the normal salad tossing) and what a “taco nazi” is, both of which I have stuffed away for future use.
    Now, having learned my three new vocabulary words for the day, I feel ready to tackle my Spirituality at Home assignment. 😉

    • Re: Learning…always learning…

      Well, I always wanted to give back to the lady who taught me the meaning of “floggin the dolphin”…and I guess now I have. 😉

  5. I laughed out loud and read it to Will. He also laughed. May I have your permission to send this to a friend of mine who is also a witty professor in his first year of teaching?


    Well now, Lady Z isn’t that special…. The real quandry, at least for your perverse little PP, is how are you going to work in the term MILF into a future lecture, and then after that, bukakke and cameltoe. The semantic slippage from melting pot to tossed salad makes a kind of sense, but what would one have to be teaching to introduce the other terms. Oh well, I won’t worry about it as I have great faith in your pedagogical powers.

    On a related note, well somewhat related if we read in a certain way, the new Tool cd is due out in a few weeks. Are you a Tool fan. If not, what the fuck is wrong with you? Your are not doing enough drugs.


      “Cameltoe” *almost* came up yesterday in my other class—we’re reading Vathek, which contains an evil camel.

      I do like Tool, but I haven’t listened to them in ages. Are you telling me I should start again?

  7. What cruel God allowed you to become a professor and who is responsible for you not to be just sitting you down on a comfy ass and just having you fed bon bons all day so you don’t ruin society?

    I think something got majorly screwed up.


    Never once, in my experience with education or teaching, has anything even close to that ever happened. But I am a really snobby researcher/scholar and I force upon people strong intellectual demands, so those who are near either get in line or die.

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