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Busboy

Sick of "Sourcing"

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Every now and then someone unleashes a rant about a trendy foodie word (like "foodie") and the Trader Joe's blurb on NPR this morning pushed me to spill mine. The word "source," used as a verb to describe the act of buying ingredients, must go.

Why does the word bother me so much? First, the high school English-Teacher within hates hates seeing nouns transformed willy-nilly into verbs. Sourcing. Tasking. Architecting.

Mostly, though, it's the pointless snobbery implied in using the world. Like Trader Joe's, which doesn't just "buy" things by the warehouseload, it now "sources" them. And no restaurant worth its organic mesclun would admit to having done anything so pedestrian as "purchasing" said greenery. It, too, is sourced.

I feel as though I'm supposed to applaud the fact that a restauranteur has actually -- imagine this -- gone through all the trouble of looking for tastier food. It's also implied that people who source -- "sourcerers," anybody? -- are somehow trecking through trackless wilderness in search of mushroom-gathering hermits who sell only to restaurants with the courage to locate their cave and the and creativity to solve the koan required of all would-be buyers, before the hermit will part with so much as a handful of wild hedgehogs. I believe Chez Panisse (and, doubtless, others) even calls their sourcerers "foragers" as though they're living off tree bark and snared rabblts, rather than driving a truck through farm country thinking how much better it is to be a forager than a line cook.

Given that producers are probably even more eager to sell their stuff than restaurants are to buy it, I've got to think that the restaurants and corporations now promiscuously tossing the term about in have the easier end of the deal. You want to risk your life savings on a few acres of organic cherries, finance your home off what you can pull out of the sea and sell that day on the docks, you have my admiration. You want to spend all your waking hours earning little or nothing to make the local market/co-op/independent shop go? Thank you. You want to get puffed up about buying stuff? Please. We'll talk about it after you've turned it into dinner.

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Eh. A battle not worth picking, really. :laugh: There are much worse hackneyed words that arguably are more worth raising your blood pressure over.

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Eh. A battle not worth picking, really. 

Eau contraire. It is certainly a battle most worthy of being picked. I may be of the older school when it comes to linguistics, but if the language is simply allowed to evolve without regard to origins, New York won't speak Nebraska English.

Come to think of it, you guys don't already. For shame!

There are much worse hackneyed words that arguably are more worth raising your blood pressure over.

That statement I can agree with. Grow is likely the most egregiously misused that I come across.

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Not a word that bothers me, so long as it means what it implies.

Going to the bother to find a good single source of something is a worthwhile activity. It is more than just calling up the Sysco guy and buying what he has on hand. It is more than just taking what comes by easily... it implies that time and effort went into finding the hermit's cave (or out of the way warehouse in a sketchy part of town), or into finding the local farmer who would grow just the variety of wild rutabaga you wanted to put on the menu.

"Sourcing" implies doing some work to find stuff, rather than calling the one stop shop and taking what's handy. It implies that you know what you want, and worked to find it.

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Interesting word.

The overtones of it are curious, to my mind.

Other common uses of the word are in journalism (as in "I wouldn't be caught dead letting on who my source was!") which has an aura of excitement and a bit of shadiness. . .then of course in the lingo (old word - some of you might have to look it up in the dictionary :sad: ) of the street "My source dried up" means that your drug dealer just got busted or is recovering from a drive-by shooting in the hospital therefore unable to provide the "goods" which is also rather shady, no?

Then there's the other side of the picture. As when someone speaks of "the source of all power" meaning the magnificent whatever-it-is from which our universe has sprung. This is not as often used, though, I don't think. But of course I don't watch Sunday morning religious television shows, so I could be wrong.

Thank you, Sir Charles, for an excellent conundrum upon which to muse.

P.S. At first, I thought your last line read "You want to get puffed up about buying stuff? Please. We'll talk about it after YOU'VE turned into dinner." I sort of liked that idea. :smile: Gave the whole a thing a rather fairy-tale-like aura.


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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Not a word that bothers me, so long as it means what it implies. 

Going to the bother to find a good single source of something is a worthwhile activity.  It is more than just calling up the Sysco guy and buying what he has on hand.  It is more than just  taking what comes by easily... it implies that time and effort went into finding the hermit's cave (or out of the way warehouse in a sketchy part of town), or into finding the local farmer who would grow just the variety of wild rutabaga you wanted to put on the menu.

"Sourcing" implies doing some work to find stuff, rather than calling the one stop shop and taking what's handy. It implies that you know what you want, and worked to find it.

I think probably half the people on this board do all that as a matter of course -- early on Staurday and often hungover, in my case -- and I'd assume that any restaurant that wants me to plunk down upwards of $75/person ($210 at Per Se -- ouch!) before wine tax and tip would do it with equal aplomb and matter-of-factness.

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It may not be a big deal like keeping little Timmy away from the stove but I can see why it could annoy someone. I get annoyed by the improper usage of "impact," as in, "Tell me about the impacts of your sourcing." Aargh! "Impact" makes me think about dental problems and...other problems. And if you want it to be plural, it should be "effects."

The other one is "product," as in "You're turning out great product." No. What you're turning out is either "a great product," or "great products."

I like to think you don't have to be an English teacher to care about language. But maybe things are different 4 U.

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Thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with your rant Busboy. These are probably the same jackasses who decided years ago that human beings "interface." No, COMPUTERS interface; humans meet with each other and interact with each other, but they do not and never will interface. You might even hurt yourself/another if you tried. Bleccch!

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Don't forget the occurence of the verb "liaise" from liaison. It makes me shudder to think about it.

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I agree with you 100% Busboy. But I think I can trump this bastardization of English. Calling up my cell company for the first time last week, I got "Hold on a sec and we'll hook you up with one of our crew. In order to keep it real, this call may be monitored or recorded." :blink:

But I always thought "source", in terms of produce at least, referred to the buyer actually making a deal with the farmer or co-op to grow specifically for them, sometimes even paying a portion in advance to grow something, or more of something, that otherwise wouldn't have been grown by that farmer at all. Am I wrong on this one?

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"Sourcing" implies doing some work to find stuff, rather than calling the one stop shop and taking what's handy. It implies that you know what you want, and worked to find it.

But I always thought "source", in terms of produce at least, referred to the buyer actually making a deal with the farmer or co-op to grow specifically for them, sometimes even paying a portion in advance to grow something, or more of something, that otherwise wouldn't have been grown by that farmer at all. Am I wrong on this one?

See, I too thought "source" in its current use as a verb implied, not just finding that special ingredient, but finding a *steady, reliable, uniform supplier* of said ingredient in the amounts required by the business at hand, which, in the case of specialized ingredients especially, is no small endeavor.

I'm none too crazed about the "verbing" of nouns either. But in some cases, a noun is being pressed into service as a quick-and-dirty solution for telegraphing an idea for which no short simple word currently exists. So I'd rather people say they "sourced" a special item than sit there as they go into a whole mini-dissertation about how they "found a supplier of a rare and high-quality ingredient that could keep up with the volumes of that item we need for our day-to-day operations."

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I find this sort of thing annoying, too, but it seems to me a symptom of corporate-ness rather than prentension. Think outsourcing, near-shoring, etc. I worked in HR and now am in vendor management for consulting services, and I hear these kinds of vocab words thrown around all day long.

Annoying, yes. Foodie-ism? Not so much.

ETA: Sometimes I find myself using these words, and my friend Nick calls me Catbert. :laugh:


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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"Sourcing" implies doing some work to find stuff, rather than calling the one stop shop and taking what's handy. It implies that you know what you want, and worked to find it.

But I always thought "source", in terms of produce at least, referred to the buyer actually making a deal with the farmer or co-op to grow specifically for them, sometimes even paying a portion in advance to grow something, or more of something, that otherwise wouldn't have been grown by that farmer at all. Am I wrong on this one?

See, I too thought "source" in its current use as a verb implied, not just finding that special ingredient, but finding a *steady, reliable, uniform supplier* of said ingredient in the amounts required by the business at hand, which, in the case of specialized ingredients especially, is no small endeavor.

I'm none too crazed about the "verbing" of nouns either. But in some cases, a noun is being pressed into service as a quick-and-dirty solution for telegraphing an idea for which no short simple word currently exists. So I'd rather people say they "sourced" a special item than sit there as they go into a whole mini-dissertation about how they "found a supplier of a rare and high-quality ingredient that could keep up with the volumes of that item we need for our day-to-day operations."

Just got in from sourcing some pizza.

What, I'm supposed to break out in hosannahs because an expensive restaurant does its homework? Growing stuff is hard work. Selling stuff is hard work. Buying stuff? Not so much. And pretense coupled with bad grammer -- insupportable! as the French would say.

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It may not be a big deal like keeping little Timmy away from the stove but I can see why it could annoy someone.  I get annoyed by the improper usage of "impact," as in, "Tell me about the impacts of your sourcing."  Aargh!  "Impact" makes me think about dental problems and...other problems.  And if you want it to be plural, it should be "effects."

The other one is "product," as in "You're turning out great product." No.  What you're turning out is either "a great product," or "great products."

I like to think you don't have to be an English teacher to care about language.  But maybe things are different 4 U.

I believe that the misuse of the word "impact" and its variations such as the non-word "impactful" make the Baby Jesus cry. What the heck was wrong with the words affect, effect, and effective?!

I've been hearing "conversate" a lot lately. It makes me want to chew gravel.

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I have a friend who has worked in the "sourcing" department of a major corporation for some years now, so I don't think the word or the job description is new. And while my friend works in banking, not food, this basically describes what he does:

See, I too thought "source" in its current use as a verb implied, not just finding that special ingredient, but finding a *steady, reliable, uniform supplier* of said ingredient in the amounts required by the business at hand, which, in the case of specialized ingredients especially, is no small endeavor.

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Nevertheless, please be sure that your little pinky finger is ready to be raised when using these words for their full and intended effect.

Wearing an Hermes tie or scarf will not harm the intended goal, either.

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Sorry, Busboy. When I do a catering gig, sourcing is indeed a huge part of the job and a major PITA that I work into my budget. You might say that's just because I live in West Virginia, but sourcing was a major issue even when I was the chef for a sorority in College Park, MD and had a Sysco account. It takes serious effort to get the good stuff, especially if you don't do enough volume for the seller to consider you a worthwhile investment. I take pride in my ability to source quality ingredients on a shoestring budget, but I don't like how much time I have to invest in order to do so. So yeah, I want credit for my shopping, not just my preparation and serving skillz. Or at least I want to get financially compensated for that time.

Believe me, it's a lot easier for Joe Fine Dining Chef to just buy from one or two major suppliers and call it a day. The more suppliers you deal with, the less volume you have for each one, the more time you're investing in handling those accounts. It seems piddly from the standpoint of the home cook, but it adds up.

As for use of the word "sourcing," I admit I was needling ya'll by using it so often in my opening paragraph :raz:, but I don't regard it as any different from "buying" from a linguistic standpoint.

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Yeah, it's a pain. But it's part of the job. It's shopping. It's what you do. Restaurants (and other food providers -- caterers and the like) have to clean the kitchen, pay payroll taxes, vacuum the dining room and hire servers, all important parts of the operation, none crowned with a pretentious name.

I appreciate the work you and many others do trying to pump out good food on a limited budget. It's a tough job and one too often overlooked when people look at the business, and you (though you deserve one) don't have a national or regional reputation that draws organic beet farmers to your back door in hopes of selling their hand-harvested product to you and thus making a name for themselves. I'm reminded of Jacques Pepin talking about his mother hitting the markets late in the day, browbeating the vendors into discount prices, and turning bruised vegetables into wonderful food.

But when a joint with $40 entrees wants bonus points for shopping well, and embraces a new verb to try to pat itself on the back, I'm not buyin'. And when the term fall into the clutches of Trader Joe's -- a fine establishment I'm sure, but hardly artisanal these days -- or works its way into casual conversation ("where did you source that olive oil?") the term must be quashed.

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I have used the word "source" to market my services. Specifically, I emphasize that I source high-quality ingredients and treat them well when I pitch a menu for somebody's event. I do not really expect anybody to pay much attention to this, but it helps to explain why my prices are higher than those charged by somebody selling frozen chicken cordon bleus out the back door.

I have also listed sources of particularly spectacular ingredients on catering menus in the past, when catering higher-end small events for knowledgeable diners. Nobody's ever rolled their eyes at me. Maybe I should be glad I wasn't working an event you attended. :rolleyes::raz:

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Given that producers are probably even more eager to sell their stuff than restaurants are to buy it,

You'd think that wouldn't ya? I have to hound some of my suppliers to get them to send me things.

Honestly I don't care what you call it - sourcing/buying/shopping. But it takes a hell of a lot of time and effort to purchase food ingredients. I don't know if the word 'shopping' does it justice though. Finding suppliers in New York, Montreal, California, Toronto, Iowa, South Dakota and more isn't as easy as hopping over to the grocery store or calling my Sysco guy to order stuff. Never mind the fact that I haven't even SEEN my sysco guy in over a year - it's like I'm twisting arms to get them to sell me food.

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Busboy, Honey, I love you to death; HOWEVER, you are trying to push the ocean back with a broom.

Because our native language, Modern English, is a bastard child of two traditional languages (i.e., the dead Old English and the equally dead Latin), it just can't help but evolve at the speed of light. I have heard more non-English speakers than I can count complain about the multiple meanings of a single word. Just think about George Carlin's observation that over the public airwaves you can say "I pricked my finger." But, you cannot say, "I fingered my p**ck."

YOU worry about the verbalizing of nouns, such as "source," and I worry about the complete breakdown of grammar and spelling because of the urge to abbreviate EVERYTHING, thanks to technology, BTW :laugh:

One thing I have learned is that, like perfect (and disappearing) manners, use of language will separate the wheat from the chaff.

It has ALWAYS been so. Your job is to get that across to your children. :shock:

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I've been hearing "conversate" a lot lately. It makes me want to chew gravel.

Seriously? Who has that kind of gall? Holy man. Do they mean to invent a new, obnoxious way of saying "converse," or do they just not know that the word to suit their needs already exists?

I have a friend who has worked in the "sourcing" department of a major corporation for some years now, so I don't think the word or the job description is new.

The job description certainly isn't new, but it used to be called "Purchasing" - and still is, in some organizations. However, as with the now outdated "Personnel" (replaced, as you are all no doubt aware, by the supposedly sexier, broader and more strategic "Human Resources"), "Sourcing" has come to represent a new generation of the purchasing function.

THIS is probably why Nick calls me Catbert. :laugh:


Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

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I guess I was operating on the misconception that you have to source (=locate or find, I thought) an item before you buy it.

But as far as verbing nouns is concerned, some of you might spend a month or so on alt.usage.english (not longer, because too many of the subscribers are nuts!). You'll find that the regulars won't be sympathetic, and they will cite very early examples. And the fact is, there are loads and loads of English words that are both nouns and verbs -- and some are adjectives, too. Talk, spin, joke, chat, laugh, hit, cry, steal, rape, murder, love, mime, stone, drive, cruise, fly, buzz, stomach, gut, cut, fix, limit, loan, rule, play, etc., etc. -- including telegraph, which mizducky used above. So while some of these new nouns may bug you -- and some bug me, too -- there's really no grammatical or important historical reason for the objections. And for that matter, "object" is another example of a word that's both a noun and a verb...

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Eau contraire.  .

Is that like a backwater? I used to live in one of those down South. :rolleyes:

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