This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is

Something Something Soup Something
Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

6 Tasty Bits of Waffle House Kitchen Slang

iStock
iStock

While Waffle House is a 24-hour diner, their servers don’t use typical diner slang to communicate orders to the kitchen. The restaurant chain uses its own lingo to employ what they call the “Pull-Drop-Mark” system to take orders in all of its 2100-plus locations throughout 25 states.

“The Pull-Drop-Mark system is what our associates use to ensure our guests get their meal quickly," Pat Warner, Waffle House's director of public relations and external affairs, tells Mental Floss. "It consists of the call-in where the server calls in the order using this system. Since we opened in 1955 we’ve used a call-in system for our team. It has evolved over the years as we’ve expanded the menu, however even today’s system can be traced back to the first restaurant.”

Here are some delicious terms you might hear during your next Waffle House visit.

1. The Mark

At every Waffle House, there is a small red tile surrounded by gray tiles on the floor near the open kitchen and grill. This is called “The Mark,” and it’s where every server or sales associate stands when he or she is calling in an order for the grill operator. Servers are only allowed to call in orders from The Mark to make sure only one order is being called at a time.

The Waffle House has used the call-in system since the chain was founded nearly 65 years ago. It’s the best way to get orders filled quickly and served to customers within the company’s eight-minutes-or-less mandate.

2. Pull

The “Pull” refers to all the meats for an order that the grill operator should pull from the refrigerator, be it bacon, sausage, chicken, sirloin—or all of the above. The meats for an order are pulled first because they require the longest amount of cooking time. After declaring "Pull," the server then calls the amount for the order, based on the standard serving size for each dish.

For example, if a server asks for “Pull one bacon” that means three slices of bacon, which is the standard amount. If a customer wants six slices, the associate would say “Pull two bacon.”

3. Drop

The “Drop” refers to any hash browns being included with an order. A sales associate might say “Drop four,” which means the kitchen should drop four hash brown orders on the grill. After a server calls the amount for the drop, then they may indicate the style, “scattered” or “in a ring.”

If a customer wants their hash browns “scattered” that means they want them broken up and spread out while cooking; if they want it cooked together and compact, the server would call “in a ring.” If a server doesn’t call “scattered” or “in a ring,” the default style is always “scattered.” So if a sales associate calls in, “Drop four, three in a ring,” that means four hash browns, one scattered, and three in a ring.

4. The Plate

Actor Chris Rock (2nd from left) stops by the Waffle House after the VIP screening of Paramount Pictures' 'Top Five' and meets customers Donnell Woods, Daryl T. Johnson II and Semhar Haile on December 9, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia
Chris Rock makes some new friends at the Waffle House in Atlanta, Georgia
Rick Diamond, Getty Images for Allied

When calling in an order of hash browns, the server must give a minimum of two pieces of information: “The Drop” and “The Plate.” The “Drop” is for the amount of hash browns to cook on the grill, while the “Plate” refers to the order that gets those hash browns.

For example, if a customer orders two scrambled eggs with hash browns, the server would call in, “Mark order scrambled plate.” If a customer wants grits instead, the call-in would be, “Mark order scrambled.” All breakfast orders default to grits, so there’s no need to say grits. If a customer wants to skip both the grits and hash browns, then the call-in is, “Mark order scrambled, hold the grits.” (Though why would they want to do that?)

“It’s two different labels for the hash browns,” Warner says. “The ‘Pull’ alerts the cook (or as we call them grill operator) how many hash browns to drop on the grill to get them cooking. The ‘Plate’ refers to any order that has hash browns. Say you get a quarter cheeseburger with hash browns—that’s a 'quarter cheese plate,' so we know the hash browns go on the same plate as the cheeseburger.”

5. Deluxe

Waffle House sales associates call burger orders “quarter” because it’s exactly a quarter pound of beef, or four ounces. If a customer wants lettuce, tomato, and onions with their burger, then the order call-in is “Deluxe.” So if the call-in is “quarter cheese deluxe,” that means a customer ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onions.

6. All The Way

Although Waffle House was founded in 1955, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the franchise started to offer toppings on their iconic hash browns. It started when restaurant owners noticed grill operators adding something extra, like gravy and jalapeños, to the hash brown they made for family and friends. It wasn't long before customers began requesting the same toppings for their potatoes, so Waffle House obliged and officially added a range of toppings to the menu in 1984.

Of course, being Waffle House, there was a special spin to these toppings and the call-in lingo for servers and grill operators. Customers can order their hash browns scattered and smothered (with sautéed onions), covered (with melted cheese), chunked (with grilled hickory smoked ham), diced (with grilled tomatoes), peppered (with spicy jalapeño peppers), capped (with grilled button mushrooms), topped (with Bert’s Chili), or country (with sausage gravy). If you're really hungry, or really brave, you can also go “all the way,” which means you'll get all eight toppings served on scattered hash browns.

This Smart Speaker Is Designed to Help You Learn Chinese

Maybe
Maybe

The latest smart speaker technology isn’t designed to turn on your Wi-Fi-connected lights or help you figure out a wine pairing. Lily, a new smart speaker available now on Indiegogo, can help you learn Chinese writing and speaking “faster than anything on the market,” according to its creators.

The voice-controlled gadget is equipped with artificial intelligence that allows it to engage in real-time conversations, so beginning to advanced students can learn to speak the Chinese language Mandarin. It can correct pronunciation, perform translations, and help you learn vocabulary through interactive games, too. It helps you learn to write with an associated app where you can practice using both pinyin and Chinese characters. Lily’s curriculum can also prepare you for the HSK Chinese proficiency exams necessary to work or study in China.

A Lily speaker conversation illustrated with text bubbles that read 'Hey Lily, how do I introduce myself?' and '你好,你叫什麼名字'
Maybe

Designed by the language-learning company Maybe—which is based in San Francisco and Shenzhen—with Chinese tutors, the AI is engineered to recognize different accents, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect.

Language learning is all about repetition, and unless you live in an area with a large Chinese population, you may not have much opportunity to practice your Mandarin in everyday life. A smart speaker like Lily can provide the next best thing by creating an immersion environment for you at home, putting it a step ahead of other language-learning apps like DuoLingo.

It’s currently only in the prototype stage, but it’s scheduled to ship by April 2019. As for other languages, the Lily team says that they hope to release software updates in the future that could give the speaker French and Spanish capabilities. (Once you have the speaker, you’ll be able to download any other languages that are released—you won’t have to buy a whole other language-specific speaker.)

The smart speakers start at $149 for early-bird buyers, which may seem like a significant investment, until you start looking at the prices of even a few weeks of private language classes. Get yourself one on Indiegogo. And don't worry about it matching your home decor—it comes in red, white, black, blue, teal, and pink.

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