Re: Can I kill the "tomatoe"?

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 10:13:21 MDT

> I could start talking about how apples and peaches had a common evolutionary
> ancestor one or two million years ago and apples and tomatoes had an
> ancestor one or two hundred million years ago, it might start an interesting thread.
> But on second thought I don't see the point, you'd just invoke the magic word you
> always use when any argument is not going your way.

OK, let's go down that road since you seem to think it useful: in
evolutionary terms, a tomato is related to berries. The part we eat
is also that part of all plants which biologists generally call the
"fruit": i.e., the part that carries the seeds, as opposed to things
like roots, stems, leaves, and other parts. In that context, given
that definition of "fruit", the word certainly applies to tomatoes.

There was a court case a while ago where tomato growers challenged
the application of a tax on "fruits" to them. The court ruled that
the intent of congress was to tax those food items which in our
culture are treated as luxury/dessert foods, while leaving staples
unburdened. In that context, the court ruled, tomatoes are a staple,
eaten in much the same way vegetables are, and is therefore not a
"fruit" for the purpose of the tax. In other cultures, it might have
been different: avocados, for example, are another fruit that is
treated as a vegetable here, but it is treated like other fruits in
South America where they are generally sweetend and made into
desserts (avocado ice cream is great).

The point is that both of the predicates "is-bio-fruit(tomato)" and
"is-cultural-vegetable(tomato)" are 100% true. Unfortunately, our
language has a tendency to use one word to represent many different
predicates--called polysemy. Rational argument must begin, then,
by first teasing from each word what specific predicates are meant,
and only after agreement on those can meaningful argument begin.

"I" is a _very_ polysemous word. You think the argument isn't
going Harvey's way because he (quite rationally) refuses to join
it until you provide him with the precise predicate you intend for
that word, and you continually refuse to do so.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

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