Cutlet: (n) a slice of meat, especially of veal, for broiling or frying.
One of the more shocking aspects of life is when you escape your childhood home and begin to mingle with the pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land, discovering that all the things you heard in your house did not translate into the lives of other beings.
For instance, my mother used to say, “Don’t freeze your typooker.”
As a child, I assumed there were typookers from sea to shining sea.
But the first time I spoke it aloud in front of friends, post-high-school graduation, they laughed voraciously, and hee-hawed even more when I became defensive. No one had heard of typooker (though one girl thought it was something naughty.)
So I was surprised when I realized that the pressed-together hamburger/ground round patties I was familiar with as a child were universally referred to as “cutlets.”
During my growing up years, we called them “cube steaks.”
I don’t know whether this was wishful thinking in the minds of my impoverished parents—musing that referring to them as steak translated them during dinner time—or if they had run across a cult of “cubers,” which they immediately joined, touting fake steak.
But it was embarrassing.
I was on a date with a girl and asked the waiter if they had some sort of cube steak. He looked at me, much more bewildered than necessary, and humiliatingly asked, “Could you draw a picture of it?”
My date for the evening, instantaneously sure she would never go out with me again, mercifully stepped in and said:
“I think you’re talking about a cutlet.”
Prideful and unwilling to sacrifice the turf, I responded, “No. I’m talking about cube steaks.”
At an impasse, the waiter suggested the beef stew (if I had ever heard of beef or stew). I was bruised.
Language is so powerful, yet so personal.
And it is so easy to convince ourselves that the words in our mouths are much more sacred than those lodged deep in the throats of our brothers and sisters.