“Pick me up some fruit juice.”

Paul Wong
Uhl Get Nothing and Like it<br><br>John Uhl

It seems like it should be such a simple thing to do, such a simple request to fulfill. Any good grocer, drugstore or corner liquor, beer and junk food peddler regularly carries a wide variety of bottled or canned fruit juice products. Logical deduction indicates that you need merely proceed by choosing one of these, any one of these.

Goodness me, there seem to be so many choices these days, though, and everybody from Raskolnikov to Edgar Allen Poe knows that decisions come with not-always-pleasantly irrevocable implications.

“Juicy Juice.”

Now this sounds good. The label on the bottle even states that it”s “100% juice.” Furthermore, it”s not just juice, it”s juicy juice, like there”s some extra element making this particular juice more juice than the next juice. Which leads one to wonder skeptically about these other less juicy juices on the shelf that aren”t even completely juice.

Perhaps this is a good point at which to break for a brief reassessment of objectives: Pick up fruit juice. Really, how descriptive can a four-syllable suggestion get? (Go fuck a cow. Get bent now, please. Find hell cold, starve. Just rot now, slow.) Even from this perspective it”s difficult to interpret much about the nature of the fruit juice desired, which makes it all the more complicated when you read the label of the next product on the shelf … Hawaiian Punch, the drink you drank beside your neighbor”s backyard pool, the canned red beverage that was so easy to steal from the lunchroom in middle school.

“Two percent or less of each of the following: Concentrated Juices (Pineapple, Orange, Passionfruit, and Apple), Purees (Apricot, Papaya and Guava).”

Even to those whose mathematical skills hardly progressed past them first days of kleptomaniac-in”, it”s apparent that Hawaiian Punch has no more than 14% juice in it. And while the line delineating between enough-juice-to-be-juice and not-enough-juice-to-be-juice may be thin, it”s certain that 14 percent ain”t no juicy juice.

Yet given that you”re after just a juice and not necessarily a juice that”s also juicy, it”s safe to assume that you don”t require a 100 percent juice like Juicy Juice. To get any more specific, you”re going to have to get an idea of how much juicier a juicy juice is than a just juice, which will undoubtedly involve a great deal of time spent estimating and wagering about how much “juicy” is, a truly dumb and wasteful thing to ponder for more than a moment. It”s better just to move on and forget about brand name associations such as these.

“V8 Splash.”

OK, so it”s really hard to get past the brand name associations, but isn”t V8 some kinda tomato drink? Although it turns out that V8 is different from “V8 Splash Fruit Medley” (which sure sounds like the name of a fruit juice), the medley”s main ingredient is carrot juice, which, last time I checked, came from a vegetable.

Before passing by this V8 stuff, however, remember that a tomato”s a fruit. Surely, y”all learned that from trivia-type tidbits Mr. Rogers or some other afternoon educational cable programming fed to your knee-high impressionable head. Tomato, which was the big problem with V8 to begin with, suddenly seems like less of a concern. And as V8 Splash contains several and various other fruit juices (apples, pineapples, etc.), V8 and V8 Splash both seem to be acceptable forms of quasi-fruit juice, at least as acceptable as a mere 14 percent juice like Hawaiian Punch.

In fact, it”s worthwhile to pause here to admire the inherent power of fruit that is rather evident in a product like V8 Splash. The fact that various portions of pear and cherry juice can collectively alter the nature and taste of a primarily carrot drink dramatically enough to warrant a title like “Fruit Medley” is utterly astounding and at least a little unnerving. Like when hot means cool and bad means good, a vegetable juice that becomes a fruit juice is enough to make you wonder how on earth we English speakers ever manage to communicate effectively.

This linguistic ambivalence could even be the explanation of your current problem: All of a sudden what began as a process of juice elimination has become a lesson in tolerance, as the working definition of fruit juice has broadened, now wide enough to include some juices that are 86 percent not-juice and others that are primarily vegetable, not fruit, juices. How far will you let this go? To what extent will you allow juice choice to occupy your thoughts?

It”s obvious that all this deliberation leads to nowhere but confusion, so a single swift decision seems to be the only certain solution. My suggestion: Get orange juice and get outta there.

If you actually got through this whole column and never want to see the word “juice” again, e-mail John at juhl@umich.edu and he”ll give you a cookie because you deserve some kind of compensation.

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