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Chicken of the sea
Posted: 25 February 2007 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The canned fish manufacturers, Chicken of the Sea, claim that they came up with the term for tuna from customers’ comments that their light chunk tuna tasted like chicken.  See this news release from the company.  Since we are all wary of etymological claims from such sources I am spurred to ask the experts.  How old is the term “chicken of the sea” in reference to tuna?

WARNING:  Jessica Simpson figures prominently in the news release.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Who’s Jessica Simpson and why do we need to be warned against her?  I’ve read the press release and am little the wiser, but perhaps that’s because I’m a Brit with no TV.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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She’s one of those folk who seem to have become famous for being famous.  Perhaps others (I am USn but without TV) would be more capable of explaining my warning.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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According the USPTO database, the trademark “chicken of the sea” was created in 1913.

I found this in a 5 June 1921 ad in the NY Times. The ad is not for the trademarked product:

Tuna or Tunny. Many call this the “chicken of the sea” because the flavor and appearance so closely resembles chicken.

I’ve hardly done a thorough search, but it appears that the trademark precedes any generic use. Of course, older uses may yet be found. (I dearly miss my access to ProQuest Historical Newspapers other than the NY Times.)

And I seem to recall the “is it chicken or tuna?” question attaching to some other female celebrity before Jessica Simpson. I could be wrong though. I can’t find anything on it in the usual urban legend sources.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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“she seems to have seriously asked whether the meat (?) inside a can of “Chicken of the Sea” is Tuna or Chicken.”

A case of recognising the words but not the tuna

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Posted: 25 February 2007 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I imagine it’s a typical marketer’s attempt to put a more attractive gloss on a product that for one reason or another some people look down on or simply aren’t buying enough of (cf. “the other white meat").  As for Jessica Simpson, I have no opinion on the lady, not having ever experienced whatever it is she does, but it seems likely to me that the anecdote is just another in the endless series of putdowns of “dumb blondes,” “silly women,” etc. that are hilarious unless you happen to be the target.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I get the impression that some of you seem to think the Jessica Simpson thing is a fictional story… you can watch the footage from the TV show here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4h78IwxW2w

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Posted: 25 February 2007 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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"Famous for being famous” sounds like a good definition of a celebrity.
On the subject of tuna, when did tunny morph into tuna?  When I was a kid, the fish was called tunny, and I think it was bonito in those days.  Then it seemed to vanish for about a decade to reappear as tuna, and always seemed to be skipjack.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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According to this fishing site, tuna, tunny and skipjack tuna are different types of fish.

Bluefin Tuna, Tuna
Thunnus thynnus

Little Tunny, False Albacore,
Spotted Bonito
Euthynnus alletteratus

Skipjack Tuna, Albacore, Oceanic Bonito
Euthynnus pelamis

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Posted: 25 February 2007 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks for that, Eliza.  Some googling elicited that “Atun bonito” is sarda sarda.  “Tunny” seems to be a generic name for many fish also called “tuna”, but not sarda sarda, so what the tunny of my youth was, I don’t know, although appears that the “tunny fish” that used to be caught off the British Isles was thunnus thynnus, so that may be what it was.  Both Yellowfin and Skipjack are also called “tunny”, so it still could be that “tuna” comes from “tunny” (which comes from “atun”? or do they share a common root?).

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Posted: 25 February 2007 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave, was that ad for Van Camp tuna?  That’s the company that eventually adopted “chicken of the sea” as the brand name for their tuna.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Order “tuna” in Mexico and you’re liable to get prickly pear fruit.

I don’t know how to post an image here, or if we can post one, so use this link to the picture on one of my websites:

Prickly_pears2.jpg

Rich

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Posted: 25 February 2007 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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From Newspaperarchive:

_Indianapolis Star_, 5 Dec. 1912: //Tuna fish or “chicken of the sea,” a new canned fish delicacy, will be demonstrated for the first time in Indianapolis in our grocery department. The Tuna fish is very rare ....//

No brand name is apparent.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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OED etymology for tuna:

Spanish American: perh. related to L. thunnus, tunnus, tunny, cf. med.L. tunnina ‘thunnus falsus’ false tunny (Du Cange).

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Posted: 26 February 2007 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Earliest cite in the OED for tuna is 1881, surprisingly late; I had no idea it was that recent.

The ad I found was for a fish market; no brand names. And note that it postdates the filing of the trademark by more than a decade.

And regarding the incident with Jessica Simpson shown in the YouTube clip (which I believe is from the “reality” TV show The Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica), I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that it was a scripted bit. Little of what appears on “reality” shows is spontaneous.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Jessica Simpson is a pop singer, with several albums that sold very well.  She also was in the 2005 “Dukes of Hazzard” movie.  So it is probably unfair to characterize her as being famous merely for being famous.  I doubt that anything she has done has lasting artistic value (though this is just speculation:  I have never consciously seen or heard anything she has done) and she has marketed herself aggressively in media only indirectly related to her music or acting career, but she has legitimately produced content that people were willing to buy.

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