Following up on a recent theme, your host was standing in line at a Dairy Queen this afternoon, which turned out to be a great motivator for a post.
As background: while few people are as appreciative as SC of the Blizzard-making arts (especially the turning-it-upside-down part), he cannot quite bring himself to recite the tedious, long-winded names which are occasionally assigned to these things. This is not a fact peculiar to ordering at Dairy Queen; when at a Red Robin, SC does not say "I'd like a Whiskey River Barbeque Burger", but simply "I'd like a Barbeque Burger". At a Mimi's, SC does not say, "I'll have a J.B.'s 14 oz. Rib Eye", but "I'll have the Rib Eye". At more upscale places, where the name of an item is often practically the entire ingredient list, this is routinely understood and not a problem.
But there's something about names at Dairy Queen, which your host has observed at multiple locations, even though he can't recollect seeing it anywhere else. In the '80s, when they used to offer a "Chocolate-Covered Cherry Blizzard", he would ask for "a chocolate-cherry blizzard", and every single time, he would be corrected with, "Do you mean a Chocolate-Covered Cherry Blizzard?" SC would think, "No, Einstein, a cherry-covered chocolate blizzard! I prostrate myself in apology for failing to disambiguate the only thing on the menu I could possibly mean!", but with great restraint out would come, "Yes, one of those".
So today, while waiting for the train that constitutes the bulk of SC's daily commute, your host walked over to the DQ near the train station, only to discover that his old favorite had been resurrected as the "Choco Cherry Love Blizzard". Since SC's lack of humility is exceeded only by his lack of willpower, in he went. In the name of empirical science, he conducted the requisite experiment. "One small 'choco-cherry' Blizzard, please". And got the predicted response, "I'm sorry, do you mean a Choco Cherry Love Blizzard?" For just the briefest of moments, SC was tempted to reply, "No, I want a Choco Cherry Hate Blizzard", or maybe "No, a Choco Cherry Seething Fury Blizzard", but then the old conditioning overtook him, and out popped "Yes, one of those".
Your host suspects that this pet peeve is of a piece with Geoff Pullum's recent screed against mind-numblingly obvious statements printed with Capital Letters on junk mail. While precision in language is a fine and often necessary thing, there is something about excessive verbiage which is merely noxious, especially when the meaning conveyed by the excess is irrelevant (the name assigned by linguists to the assumption that most people can grasp the obvious is "pragmatics"). And yet at Dairy Queen, an insistance on uttering the entire incantation is the defining trait of the employees. Is there some sort of punishment for not saying the entire name? Does the training teach them that it is better to correct their customers' speech, no matter how well understood, than allow the marketers' carefully tested and focus-grouped names to wither? Or has SC just been on a singularly unlucky run of encounters with uptight people for the last 18 years (the length of his acquaintance with DQ)?