Can you can? Actually, I can’t can. Well, maybe I could can. But I don’t can. Perhaps I should can. Maybe someday I will can.
But for now, what I can do is make a list. Of cans. For ThThTh¹.
A big can of cans
- can: an English modal verb. Like other modals (eg could, should, would, will, may, etc.), it doesn’t take the third person singular -s suffix. It is typically spoken in a very reduced form, with a syllabic alveolar nasal for the rhyme [kʰn̩] unless it bears sentence-level stress (eg. a pitch accent), in which case it has the full low front vowel [æ] like the other cans (i.e. [kʰæn]²).
- can: a verb meaning “preserve food in jars or cans”
- can: a noun meaning “an enclosed metal container” (also a tin, though cans not need be made of tin. Actually, I guess some cans are not even entirely metal.)
- the can: a slang term for a bathroom, or for the toilet itself.
- can: a verb meaning “discontinue.” As in “the show was canned.”
- can it!: an expression akin to “shut up.”
- Pringles: potato chips that come in a can
- cheeseburger in a can: exactly what it sounds like. Yick.
- Prince Albert in a can: A kind of tobacco sold in a tin made famous for the use of its name in prank phone calls:
prank caller: Do you have Prince Albert in a can?
shopkeeper: Yes we do.
prank caller: Well, why don’t you let him out?
- Campbell’s Soup Cans: Andy Warhol’s famous work of art, which consists of 32 canvasses each with a silk-screened picture of a can of Campbell’s soup.
- canned laughter: recorded laugh tracks used with TV shows.
- kick the can: a game usually played outdoors. (I’ve never played it, actually. It appears to be akin to both tag and hide and seek)
- can of worms: an expression meaning “complications” or “difficulties.” As in “we don’t want to open up that can of worms.” Which strikes me as kinda funny, as I imagine that a can of worms, if not exactly pleasant, would be rather straightforward.
- There is a tradition to string empty cans from the back of a car (usually emblazened with “just married”) which a bride and groom will use to leave their wedding
- The Can can: a French chorus line dance. (Also written cancan or can-can.)
- “Can You Can Can?”: lyrics by Richard Perlmutter (of Beethoven’s Wig) set to Can Can from Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach. The chorus goes like this:
Oh can you do the Can Can?
If you can then I can
I can Can Can if you Can Can
Can you Can Can
- Yes We Can Can: a Pointer Sisters song.
- “Yes We Can”: a campaign speech by President-elect Barack Obama³ about the benefits of preserving food, and a song using elements of that speech [YouTube]. (Okay, it’s not really about canning.)
¹This list of cans was inspired by a post on preserving foods from Flying Tomato Farms. In particular, this bit got me thinking about can:
Because I can (that is, preserve food in jars using boiling water and pressure-processing methods), and because I teach a couple of people each season to can, I sometimes get frustrated with customers at farmers markets who decline to take the farmers up on their bulk discounts for produce that could easily be put up using simple methods of boiling water bath canning, drying, or freezing.
In addition to it providing me with amusement over the need to disambiguate the word can, it was a very intersting post about the need for local processing of food in order to better support local food economies.
² This should actually have a tilda diacritic over the vowel, too, but I can’t get the unicode symbol to work right.
images: can-can dancers from wpclipart.com, soup cans from Florida Center for Instructional Technology Clipart ETC