I am trying to order some crispy duck pancakes from a well-known Japanese restaurant chain, which I intend to pick up in roughly 30 minutes’ time. You know the things. They’re called crispy duck pancakes. That’s what everybody calls them.
They come with a little tub of sauce and you have to add the cucumber and the spring onion and the duck (the crispy duck) to the pancake (the crispy duck pancake) and then you put them in your mouth and chew, etc.
Thing is, the website doesn’t call them crispy duck pancakes.
It calls them “duck wraps”.
Well, OK. I don’t mind this.
I don’t mind companies using their own little specialised McPhrases. Although in the past, I did find it very annoying. Still, why not just call them crispy duck pancakes?
“I’ll have the, uh, ‘duck wraps’, please,” I say in any case, trying to play along.
“Sure,” says the man on the phone. “Anything else?”
“And a lemonade,” I say.
“Great, so that’s a lemonade,” he repeats. “And the Asian pancakes.”
“Anything else, sir?”
“Uh, no,” I say, but I just have to quickly check something. “But you got the duck wraps, right? You put down the ‘duck wraps’ I asked for?”
“Yes, sir,” says the man. “And a lemonade. So that’s a lemonade, and the Asian pancakes.”
“OK,” I say, my eyes scanning the menu. I can’t see Asian pancakes anywhere. “But can I just check that the duck wraps are, like, the crispy duck and the cucumber and stuff like it says on the website? You know the things.”
I stare again at picture on the website. I look at the words “duck wrap”.
“That’s right, yes,” he says, but I want him to actually say it.
“Because it says ‘duck wrap’ here,” I say. I tap the screen three times, as if to say “that one”, but it’s pointless because we’re on the phone and he can’t see.
“Sure,” he says. “The Asian pancakes.”
I throw my arm up in the air. By which I mean I make a despairing motion, not that I tear my own arm off and chuck it about.
“OK, but how come you keep calling them Asian pancakes?” I say. “I don’t want Asian pancakes.”
“I want duck wraps but every time I ask for a duck wrap you call it an Asian pancake like that’s normal.”
Maybe he’s a renegade chef trying to prove a point. Or maybe he’s some kind of overbearing boyfriend figure who thinks that, of course, I think I want Westernised duck wraps, but what I would really enjoy is the far more authentic “Asian pancakes” he saw in a window on his gap year but never tried.
“Well,” he says. “We have Asian pancakes but we also have duck that comes in little lettuce cups.”
Well, you stop right there.
“I don’t want that,” I say. “I don’t want little lettuce cups.”
I cannot stand lettuce cups. Lettuce is not supposed to be a cup. If lettuce was supposed to be a cup, I wouldn’t have cups, I’d just have loads of lettuce.
“No, I get it, you want Asian pancakes,” he says.
“Duck wraps! I want duck wraps!” I say. “Are they definitely the same as Asian pancakes?”
“Yes, sir!” he says.
“So why don’t you just say ‘duck wraps’?!”
He mutters something else about lettuce and deliveries and before I know it I’m in the car on my way there.
“They better be duck wraps,” I think, seething. Because I can already sense that I’m going to get there and I’m going to open that little takeaway box and it’s going to be packed with little lettuce cups. There’ll be hundreds of them. There’ll be so many lettuce cups I’ll be forced to open a café for rabbits.
I don’t know why they have to complicate things. Why don’t they just call them crispy duck pancakes? Do they think that sounds too lettuce-y?
What is too confusing about calling things what they actually ARE? Something’s not “grande”, it’s large.
When I arrive, my order is waiting for me. He hands me the bag and smiles.
I take it, on trust. I am not going to check it in here. I would rather find I have been given 2,000 lettuce cups in the public car park outside, and then howl at the heavens in rage.
By my car, I peek inside the box. He has given me the correct product. The duck wraps of the website. The Asian pancakes of the store team.
But do you know what the official name for it is? The name they put on the actual outside of the thing?
Crispy duck pancakes.
I think the moral of the story is that we get the world we deserve.
And it is a world in which people gladly sell cups made of lettuce.
Read the Danny Wallace archive here
Get our best stories, delivered daily for free
Get exclusive shortlists, celebrity interviews and the best deals on the products you care about, straight to your inbox.