What About Bob?

bigboy“You have to admit, this is exactly what America would utilize cloning technology for.”

So said a food tester about Burger King, one of the major fast food chains in the US, which has recently introduced a new burger, the Big King, which is suspiciously like the Big Mac at McDonald’s — see for yourself.

What’s interesting is that McDonald’s success has been so great that its products are now treated as naturally-found objects, the industry standard, and thus the original — i.e., the thing that is being copied by others — when, in fact, their burger is (unsurprisingly for some) itself a copy. For the Big Mac dates to 1967 and was created to compete with the burgers of what was then a far better established chain, Big Boy (originally Bob’s Big Boy, founded in 1936), and what they claim as being their original double-deck burger.

Just take a look at what Big Boy’s iconic statue is holding.

It’s burgers all the way down.

Silly example? I’m not sure, since it illustrates so nicely that “original” is a rhetorical move and not a factual or descriptive term; dig a little and you’ll find that its use betrays either an arbitrary or a self-interested starting point that we have to adopt in order to say anything about the world. The words “original” or “origin,” then, signal a tacit agreement on the part of interlocutors: “For the purposes of argumentation, grant me that X began at point Y and then we can get on with our business….”

Whether you wish to grant this or not is, of course, your call — if you own a McDonald’s franchise, then you’re probably more than happy being considered the standard against which all others are measured.

But what about Bob?

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