Best Of Puzzled Over

On The Existence Of Bagels

Since moving to NYC, one of the minor changes I’ve gone through is the change in bagel preference. Living in Ithaca, one gets very used to the Upstate-style bagel; thick, heavy, doughy, fairly chewy. New York City bagels, of course, are thinner, wider, lighter, and a little less doughy. Everyone sells bagels, and they are cheap and filling.

When we place a Fresh Direct order for groceries, we always tend to order a six-pack of bagels and some cream cheese, for the occasional time I want to eat breakfast. The ones that are delivered meet all of the above criteria for a NYC bagel, and also keep very well in the freezer. Strangely, though, it is impossible for me to prepare myself one without having a minor aneurism.

Why this intense pain in the head? On the packaging, the slogan and product name meld together one of the most mind-boggling sentences in human history since “If it weren’t for my horse, I never would have spent that extra year on college.”

The pitch reads:


Just Bagels, of course, is the name of the product. Still, even knowing this, I am forced to read this as: Instances of object X aren’t instance of object X unless they’re simply instances of object X.

Is this a blow against fancy things, maybe? Are they implying that were a bagel all spruced up with fancy seeds and flavorings, that it would stop being a bagel and turn into some other sort of bread foodstuff, such as a bialy? But they sell six varieties, including Just Bagels Everything. Surely that’s not just a bagel, as the combination of poppy and sesame and onion and garlic disqualifies one from saying it’s just a bagel.

Perhaps they’re speaking to the moral sense of the bagels – a sort of superhero bagel, upholding the standards and beliefs of our fair city. I would find this hard to believe, as they do not seem to have any superpowers to resist my desire to eat them, nor do I gain the ability to fly by eating them.

(At this point in the entry, I’m looking at the dictionary definitions for just in hopes of deciphering further. I would appreciate it if someone called for professional help.)

How about “by a narrow margin, barely”? That doesn’t speak well to the product, though, if it only squeaks by the qualification charts for what constitutes a bagel. Ignoring the disqualification of bagels conforming better to the specification, this throws us into even more mental anguish as we are judging the conformance of a bagel on whether or not it conforms to the state of the bagel.

One final possibility is that they are using “just” as a variant on joust. Perhaps these bagels ride into battle and try to knock each other over when…

Needless to say, this is why I often just go out to eat.