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Dancing like a cake...

Another of those nice young ladies who occasionally and gratifyingly contact me with offers of new foodstuffs to tempt my palate contacted me the other day and offered me a tempting gastro-morsel.

"It's the new Heston from Waitrose Chocolate and Passion Fruit Popping Candy Tart," she said, then added: "It's a tart that will literally dance on your tongue."

Always ready to try anything with the Heston Blumenthal mark of genius attached, I was eager to have a slice, but first there was a little solecism I needed to sort out lest it left a bad taste in the mouth.

"A tart," I said, "or indeed any other sort of cake, cannot literally dance. Dancing involves a volitional movement, usually in a regular rhythm, often though not exclusively, to the accompaniment of music. A tart is an inanimate object so cannot have volition and therefore cannot literally dance. It can only metaphorically dance."

"There is compressed carbon dioxide in the tart's candy pieces," she said irrelevantly, "with which your saliva interacts to give a popping sensation. It literally feels like it's dancing."

"Literally feeling like dancing," I replied, "is not literally dancing.

"To dance, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is to leap, skip, hop or glide with measured steps and rhythmical movements of the body. A tart cannot leap, skip, hop, glide or measure and does not have a body."

"The leaps, skips or hops of a tart," she said, "can be measured, which would conform to the definition. It does not have to measure them itself.

"And what if it displays the full-bodied aroma of chocolate and passion fruit? Does it not then have a body?"

"A metaphorical body, "I said, "not a literal one."

"You have restricted your linguistic argument," she said, "to first definition of 'dance' in the OED, which also mentions that the word can be used mean 'of things inanimate: To bob up and down on the ground, on the surface of water, in the air, etc. ' I put it to you that this definition disproves your assertion that only animate things may dance. Furthermore, I suggest that 'etc' may include the mouth or tongue, upon which it is therefore perfectly possible for a tart to dance."

"Metaphorically," I said, "not literally. The definition you quote, I seem to remember, goes on to say, 'Often with personification or figurative reference to gay and sprightly motion'. The key here is the reference to 'figurative reference', which you must agree is highly suggestive of metaphor."

"Would you like a slice?" she asked.

"Well," I said, "I suppose we could adjourn our discussion of the literal or metaphorical nature of the dancing until after I have consumed the slice."

"Agreed," she said, and cut me a piece of the tart which I popped into my eager mouth.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"Delicious," I said. "Tingle, crackle, pop. It dances on my tongue."

"Literally," she added.

"No," I said: "Metaphorically," and we left it at that.

Well done, Heston.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Dec 29, 2011
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