A Salt and Cutlery

A Seattle man was recently attacked by another diner with a fork at a restaurant in the International District. When speaking of Seattle, for “international district” read “Asian, mostly Chinese,” as opposed to Hispanic, Pakistani or Luxembourgian. Seattle’s close proximity to Asia explains easily the high proportion of immigrants from that part of the world. If only we could explain why one diner felt compelled to stab another.

Evidently the stabber was unhappy that the stabbee had been dancing earlier with a woman at a nightclub. The four or five online articles culled for this piece pretty much repeated each other without adding much clarification. We don’t know anything about the relationship between the stabber and the mysterious woman, for example, or the woman and the stabbee, except for the suggestion that they danced together at some point. I want to know more.

Like a knife, fork and spoon, had the stabber, the victim and the woman been a threesome? Had the woman and the would-be Zorro been an item who broke up? Did the sight of the woman with her new beau dancing together anger the jilted guy, who was pushed over the edge when the couple later appeared at the same restaurant where the old boyfriend was?

Did the victim try to defend himself with a spoon, or maybe a smaller fork? And were there no knives around? Was the fork three-tined or four? Was it a left-handed or a right-handed fork? Could it have been a walk-by forking? Was it spontaneous or was it a premeditated forking?

A UK woman, perhaps motivated by a TV commercial, stabbed her live-in partner with a piece of cutlery for stealing her pork chop. Had the perforated person in Seattle taken the “I’ll have what he’s having” a bit too far, and stolen the perforator’s Mu Shu Pork?

In chess, a fork is a clever maneuver of aggression, since two pieces are attacked at the same time. This guarantees that the opponent will lose at least one piece. Did the Seattle forker recently lose a game of chess to the victim? Did this make a juxtaposition of forker, fork and forked?

Was the attacker a bad dancer who that evening lost a jitterbug contest to the person he jabbed? To atone for his two left feet, did he use his left hand to stab the better hoofer?

Was the stabber a vegetarian or a carnivore? Was he dissatisfied with his meal and need more protein, turning his hunger to the victim as a next course? Was the stabber a proponent of cannibalism? Did he season his victim with salt and pepper?

These are all questions that bother me, and I hunger for answers. Maybe linguistics can help us with our detective work.

When one studies foreign languages, like French and German, for example, the student becomes dismayed over the nuances of nouns. In English — or perhaps more precisely, American English — we don’t attach much complication to “the ball” or “your nose hairs.” But in French and German, nouns have genders. An object, like a ball, has a sex!

In French, “the ball” is “la balle,” so a ball is feminine. “Le nez” is French for “the nose,” so a nose is masculine. (The ‘le’ and ‘la’ are referred to as articles, and you probably get the drift by now as to which one is masculine and which is feminine.) So not only do you have to learn all new vocabulary for nouns, you have to remember if they are masculine or feminine, and use the proper articles.

German takes it up a notch, since nouns are either masculine, feminine, or — get this — neuter. (Yeah, that usually takes a while to sink in.) In German the articles that correspond to masculine, feminine and neuter are: der, die and das. Like with French, there is mostly arbitrariness instead of rhyme or reason when considering a link between the noun and its gender. It turns out that ball and nose are both feminine in German: die Kugel and die Nase. (Nouns in German are capitalized, by the way.) One bizarre example of gender assignment is the translation into German of “a young girl.” In German it’s “das Mädchen,” which is of neuter gender. So a young girl is not technically feminine or even masculine, but is actually neuter! Hmm.

Cutlery is a very weird subject to put on our linguistic plate.

In German, for the knife, the spoon and the fork, it’s das Messer, der Löffel, and die Gabel; the knife is neuter, the spoon is masculine and the fork is feminine. With this in mind, did the fork stabber add insult to injury by stabbing him with a feminine piece of cutlery?

Another angle is through the lens of cultural differences. Are Chinese unfamiliar with the proper use of American/Western eating utensils? Unfortunately, literature on the symbolism of chopsticks and their use, along with more modern Chinese views of Western cutlery confuses me more than Confucius.

I am no closer to understanding the situation even after reviewing the ancient writings of the great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, who counseled, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that the next time you eat out you should be keenly aware of the diners around you, even your own dining partner. You never know who might wish to stab you with a fork, and let’s face it, there are plenty of them laying around.


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