How do you semantically broaden a pizza? It’s not a question you’d see everyday, but it can be an interesting one!
Semantics – the study of meaning in language.
Pizza is quite a snack to enjoy at supper and at parties. We all have our own tastes and preferences of what pizza we truly want. However, we aren’t going to dive on the narrow ends of what makes a perfect pizza.
Instead, we will be attempting to semantically broaden a pizza. Our goal is to successfully make ‘pizza’ a broader category among food. Let us first establish what a pizza is before we cut its limits.
What is a pizza? According to the Oxford dictionary’s definition, pizzas are:
- a dish of Italian origin;
- consists of a flat, round base of dough;
- toppings of tomato sauce and cheese;
- typically with added meat or vegetables.
We now have specific criteria of what a pizza is according to published dictionaries. Let’s slowly break that criteria by pondering—and doing a little bit of research—on what qualifies as a pizza and create a new category of food.
We will also be breaking the criteria by asking some of you during the time of writing this. Special thanks to rebels @Vinzed N, @Cuddles38321 for participating with the discussion 😀
Let’s start cracking the first part on our list: “a dish of Italian origin.”
Part I: pizza muito del italia
The word ‘pizza’ first appeared in a 10th century manuscript written in Latin. Some theorize that it could have come from the Byzantine Greek word “pitta,” a word used for pitta bread—a round flat bread baked in the oven at high temperature, sometimes with toppings (sounds familiar?) It is very much accepted though, that pizza came from the Italian word pizza literally meaning “pie.”
However, not all pies are pizza. Let’s take for example an apple pie; no one would call it a pizza. Although with great respect to the Italians, this is an English word adapted from Italian. By analyzing the difference between Italian pizza and English pizza we can extract a subtle but important piece of information to use in broadening our new food category—pizza.
As written, pizza is of Italian origin. In order to debunk this, we must first figure out what “a dish of Italian origin” means in such a context. Does it imply that the dish has to be from Italy? Does it mean that the ancestors of what we commonly call pizzas originated from Italy?
Assuming that the first statement applies, we can easily get rid of the Italian origin criteria; pizzas don’t necessarily have to be in Italy or from Italy to be called a pizza.
However, if the last statement checks out in this context, we may have a hard time dealing with this. Although, if one calls a pitta a pizza we can get rid of this criteria and allow pizzas of different cultures, not necessarily relating to Italy.
Part II: flat and round
We are off from a good start.
Many—if not most of us—know that pizzas aren’t necessarily flat and round. We can order pizzas of any shape and thickness!
Square pizzas are a commonly known non-circular pizza, and some pizzas are as thick as their thick crusts. But this removes all the fun for this post.
Let’s say that we have a round pizza. We slice the pizza symmetrically—half horizontally, half vertically. Now we have this.
Would you call this a pizza? It still has a round base but it’s just sliced symmetrically.
Now let’s take a portion of that pizza.
Would you call this a pizza? Its base is triangular. Are slices of pizza not pizza by themselves?
Either way, not all pizzas are thin and have round bases as options vary.
Part III: toppings of tomato sauce and cheese
Here’s the controversial part. How often do you see a pizza with no tomato sauce and no cheese? Would you call that a pizza?
This is called a white pizza. It typically doesn’t have tomato sauce on it but it has cheese. Would you call this a pizza?
This one is called a pizza marinara, an Italian cuisine with no cheese! Would you call this a pizza too?
How about this thing?
So far, the perspectives I collected agree here. They aren’t exactly the same though as we will see in Part V.
For now, we can separate these into two. Pizza‐A being a category of pizzas where the toppings and sauce do not have to be cheese and tomato sauce respectively; Pizza-B being a category of pizzas where the standard tomato sauce and cheese criteria applies and is a big identity to a pizza. (Note that supporters of Pizza-B acknowledge the existence of dessert pizzas and treat it as a variety of a pizza. They also acknowledge other pizzas with no tomato sauce/no cheese and treat them as another variety.)
Part IV: typically with added meat or vegetables
Easy! Not everyone’s a fan of having meat or vegetables in it. This isn’t exactly a strict criteria though.
The adverb “typically” is used here to note that it is optional—although notable—that meat or vegetables are topped in the pizza; removing another part of the criteria.
Part V: Reconsidering other possibilities
Like tomato sauce and cheese, vegetables and meat are toppings.
Surprise! How about this though?? Isn’t it a pizza? Are pizza rolls pizza? Well it is pizza in a roll isn’t it? Rolled pizzas???
These are pizza pockets! Are they pizzas too???
According to our current criteria of Pizza-A, it is:
- a dish
- made of dough
- with any toppings
So pizza rolls aren’t really pizza because there are no toppings. Instead, these “toppings” are inside the supposed pizza. However, if we do broaden our pizza to make pizza rolls be called pizza, we’ll have to supply “fillings” alongside the toppings part making it:
- with any toppings or fillings
One might argue: If you fold a pizza, it would still be a pizza. Unfortunately, that pizza isn’t a pizza roll. Even if you roll such a pizza it would act more of a roll than a pizza (no one rolls their pizzas anyway).
Let’s take the category Pizza-B.
- a dish
- made of dough
- with tomato sauce and cheese
In Pizza-B, one of the fundamental things of what makes a pizza as such, is the tomato sauce and cheese. Any pastry with tomato sauce and cheese—like pizza pockets, pizza rolls, and folded pizzas—are pizzas. Pizza-B leans more to the idea that the well known savory pizza flavor is notable and should be a part of what makes a pizza.
Very weird chart
What we are doing is making pizza broad enough to make it a category of its own—but at the same time—narrow enough to distinguish it from the other categories. So in how I perceive it, it would be better to leave out rolls and pockets from our definition, (even if it means that pizza rolls will no longer be called as such =[ ).
Part VI: Pizza is now a new category of food!!
We are now left with this criteria:
- a dish
- made of dough
- with any toppings
Funnily enough, this is exactly the criteria I had in mind before doing this post. But, with it written out, and pizza being considered a new category of food, we can finally call some dishes that didn’t vibe as pizzas as such.
If you don’t agree with my liberal pizza category definition, that’s fine! In fact, it’s great to be different and have a different reasoning for anything and everything. You may call footlongs, pains au chocolat, lumpias, and hoagies as pizzas (in this context) and that’s completely fine.
These are pizzas to the pizza anarchists.
Part VI: Conclusion
Upon writing and publishing, pizza is still not a category of food (but you can make it one if you want)). You can be one of the pizza loyalists, pizza liberals, pizza anarchists or anywhere beyond or within the pizza spectrum.
This post is originally made as a jokingly insightful piece to highlight how we as humans vary in our understanding of things specifically in meanings of words. In general, all Anglophones know that when I say “chair,” I am referring to something most of us sit on. But if I show you a picture of a sofa, a bench or a cushion, the answer of whether or not it is a chair isn’t a simple yes or no.
“Is cereal a soup or is it a salad?”
Verily, answers regarding whether something is something such as the one shown above isn’t binary nor are they a single word; the answer will always be “whatever vibes,” and factors that consider what vibes well would be personal understanding and culture—all a matter of perception.
I end this post by letting you question words and enjoy the oddities, the absurdities, and the beauty of your own language whether you’re a monolingual English speaker or a multilingual.
Is pizza a pie? DM me your answers to be featured in my next post!
In crust, we trust. FTGF! EPEZEPEZEPEZEPEZ
fun graphic made by Vinzed