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Et tu, New Yorker?

I was reading a this story about MSG when I came across the following:

Despite MSG’s image makeover, I’ve found that plenty of people remain resistant to incorporating it into their cooking. They are willing to bring MSG into their homes as a component in other foods—more than happy to accept it as a flavoring powerhouse in Doritos, instant ramen, canned soup, and bouillon cubes, or at least happy to accept its euphemisms, like “hydrolized soy protein” and “autolyzed yeast.” But the notion of buying and using the raw ingredient is often a bridge too far.

The phrase “a bridge too far” comes from the Cornelius Ryan novel (and subsequent film) of the same name.

Published in 1974, Ryan’s book is an account of Operation Market Garden, which Wikipedia helpfully summarizes as the “failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem by taking a series of bridges in the occupied Netherlands during World War II.”

“A bridge too far” is a metaphor for overreach; a situation in which ambition trumps capability, often leading to disastrous results. It’s unclear to me how that applies to using MSG in your cooking.

Like “begs the question,” which I’ve addressed previously, “a bridge too far” has taken on an entirely different meaning from what it was originally meant to convey. Whether that’s a natural evolution of the language or millennial ignorance—the latter nearly always a safe bet—is a discussion for another day. But when elite publications like the New Yorker don’t put the kibosh on it, that’s how these things stick.



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