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What is half of a deviled egg?
May 5, 2011 2:52 PM   Subscribe

What is half of a deviled egg? This is a serious question.

About five years ago, I went to lunch with my friend Nunk. Part of Nunk's lunch was a modest quantity of deviled egg. I asked Nunk if I could have a deviled egg.  He said I could have half a deviled egg.  So I picked up and ate what I took him to mean, which is one half of an egg's worth of deviled egg.  And thus began The Argument.

This is an argument that has now spanned years, continents, and all forms of human communication in which an argument can take place. It has collaterally involved dozens and dozens of friends, some of whom now staunchly refuse to even speak of eggs in our presence.

Nunk's argument is that deviling one egg yields two deviled eggs. Deviled eggs are the product of a recipe that uses eggs as one of several ingredients, and the result is quantified independently of the number of eggs that go into it. Each resultant discrete unit (or "cup" as we now shorthand them) is correctly individually referred to as "a deviled egg".  

For example, if you were to say "bring me one of those deviled eggs," you would not expect to be given two "cups".  Thus, deviling an egg yields two deviled eggs.  You accurately refer to one "cup" as a deviled egg.

My argument is that one deviled egg is one egg, deviled.  As a poached egg is an egg, poached, or a sliced apple is an apple, sliced, it seems inarguable that when you devil an egg, you get a deviled egg. The only rational interpretation of Nunk's offer of "half a deviled egg" would be one "cup".  I.e. half an egg's worth. 

For example, if you were to say, "I'm going to make a deviled egg, do you want one?" this would imply you're offering one egg, or two "cups". Thus, deviling an egg yields one deviled egg.  You accurately refer to one "cup" as a deviled egg half.

Recipe books, recipe websites, labeling on commercially-sold deviled eggs, and mountains of anecdotally-supported arguments about what "everyone says" have all variously supported both sides of the argument. And yet, one of us has to be authoritatively right, right?
posted by churl to Food & Drink (95 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nunk's argument is that deviling one egg yields two deviled eggs.

Nunk is right.

The World Famous has spoken.
posted by The World Famous at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [42 favorites]


What grouse said. But the answer to this question, and all questions like it, depends exclusively on what language users take "half a deviled egg" to mean. In the context of your original conversation, but not necessarily in other contexts, I agree with your friend.
posted by smorange at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nunk is right that one devilled egg is one "cup".

Nunk's unhygienic for offering you half a cup. Ick.
posted by orthogonality at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you were at a party, and someone asked you to go to the buffet and bring you a deviled egg, would you expect to get two pieces of the same egg, equaling a whole? I think I'd just take it to mean a half, meaning a deviled egg is a whole thing identifiable by its solid mass - which happens to be half an egg proper but is only one deviled egg. I'm with Nunk.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm with Nunk. If I offered you half, I'd be handing you a knife to cut it (preferably lengthwise).
posted by cecic at 2:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been eating deviled eggs for over half a century and everyone I know says that each cup is one deviled egg.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:00 PM on May 5, 2011


If someone offered me half of a deviled egg, I would take a bite of "the cup". Thus, one egg yields two deviled eggs.
posted by AlliKat75 at 3:00 PM on May 5, 2011


I hope you don't have money on this.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:00 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Another vote for 1 egg-in-shell produces 2 deviled eggs.
posted by brainmouse at 3:04 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another vote for Nunk. One cup is one "deviled egg". It is only by recipe convention that one egg yields exactly two cups; it is certainly possible that someone would make an "extra yolk" or "light yolk" deviled egg recipe, using extra yolks or fewer yolks and breaking the 1 egg:2 cups ratio. It is unreasonable to expect the person seeing the end product to know exactly how the eggs were made and what the ratio is.

If it helps you sleep at night just think of them as Deviledeggs, where each cup is a single deviledegg.
posted by true at 3:05 PM on May 5, 2011


If someone offered me half of a deviled egg, I would think to myself "wtf?" It's either the whole deviled egg (one cup, i.e. 1/2 of an egg white) or nothing at all. That's almost as bad as offering a piece of cheese and meaning one strand of grated cheese. COME ON!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:06 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


The devil is involved with this for a reason. If you devil an egg, could it become 2? Not 2 eggs, but 2 deviled eggs, which need have no relationship at all to the number of eggs.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:07 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What smorange said. There is not an authoritative answer to this question.
posted by grouse at 3:07 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if Nunk had had stuffed peppers for lunch that were made by cutting a whole pepper in half (lengthwise, lets say) and then stuffing each half with the requisite ingredients? I don't think you would be inclined to assume that "a stuffed pepper" meant two items, would you?
posted by Rock Steady at 3:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm with Nunk. Also I hate deviled eggs so if someone insisted that I eat one deviled egg, I'd put up a huge fight if I were confronted with 2 cups.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Imagine Nuck had a bunch of roasted potatoes on his plate. You know, the usual quarters or eighths of a whole potato. You asked him if you can have one and he says "Yes." Would you then start assembling the quarters into a whole potato, taking most of the roasted potato slices off his plate to make one potato? If he said you could have half of one would you assemble enough slices to build half of a potato?

Of course not.

Some foods maintain their name even after reconstructed from their original form. Once you devil an egg then "one egg" becomes the standard unit for a deviled egg. Half of a whole egg. Thus, "Half a deviled egg" is half of a half of a whole egg. Only deviled.

Nuck is correct.

Nuck is, however, a cheap bastard (not to mention kind of gross) for only allowing you half of a deviled egg.

I love questions like this. Like "is cereal soup or is pizza a sandwich. Someone needs to assemble them on the wiki into an "awesome arguments" page
posted by bondcliff at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [29 favorites]


Nunk is right, but Nunk is also a jerk for offering half of a finger-food item, so your confusion is understandable.
posted by muddgirl at 3:10 PM on May 5, 2011 [32 favorites]


n = n/2

If someone offered me either half a devilled egg or a devilled egg, I'd take a "cup". If your stingy coworker wanted to split, he should have divided it himself, as eating only half a "cup" boggles my mind and clearly both usages are common
posted by momus_window at 3:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


one half of one egg filled with the tasty goodness = one deviled egg
posted by radiosilents at 3:15 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, to bring Bondcliff's argument to the extreme, half of a french fried potato. Because that's clearly half a french fry. And who the fuck offers someone half a french fry.

Also, I've checked with others. A deviled egg is one cup. We agree.
posted by crackingdes at 3:15 PM on May 5, 2011


a deviled egg is one cup. your friend is right and either stingy or gross for offering you half of one. although, if you had reached onto my plate of deviled eggs, you'd be asking this question with a few less fingers, so i guess he's nicer than i am.
posted by nadawi at 3:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


And yet, one of us has to be authoritatively right, right?

Honestly and in seriousness, no.

Yes, technically, one should cut one of the cups in half, but from a hygiene, ease of use and friendly point of view, it should be one cup. Not to get to metaphysical here, but this is all just language, so trying to find authoritative right here is impossible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:16 PM on May 5, 2011


Buy Nunk some eggs, and put this mess behind you.

And yes, one 'cup' is a deviled egg.
posted by pupdog at 3:18 PM on May 5, 2011


Nuck is correct but the OP is right.
posted by mullacc at 3:20 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about whether one should divide a single cup lengthwise or widthwise. The idea that the cup is already a half would NEVER have occurred to me.
posted by Xalf at 3:21 PM on May 5, 2011


I think this is one of those things that you are both right.

Do you know the definition to bimonthly??? 1 ) Occurring every two months OR 2) occurring twice a month! That's ridiculous. But it's the truth. Now we have a word that is meaningless. EVERY time you use it you need to explain what you mean.

Now every time you ask for a deviled egg this needs to be clarified. You mean you want both halves of the egg or just one halved egg with the deviled stuff inside.

You are both right - and so, both wrong.
posted by beccaj at 3:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


If some one asked me if I wanted a deviled egg, I would assume they meant one cup.

If someone asked me if I wanted half a deviled egg, I would assume they meant one cup and were a little weird.

So I guess I think you're both right? And that offering someone half of a cup is really weird.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Your friend is correct.

I hate that we are solving this , life will soon be meaningless for you.
posted by tomswift at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nuck's interpretation more closely matches mine. However, communication is about creating a mutually-shared understanding, and "half a devilled egg" is weird and ambiguous enough that it should have been queried at the time.

Also you should egg his house.
posted by Paragon at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


You are both right - and so, both wrong.

The term "deviled egg" is ambiguous. It doesn't make any sense at all to argue about it after the fact. If you sue Nunk, I suppose you win, since in law ambiguities tend to be disambiguated against the drafter of the language. I think your interpretation is entirely reasonable and your parsimonious friend is in the wrong.
posted by Hylas at 3:43 PM on May 5, 2011


There is considerable support from a google search for referring to what we have been calling in this thread "deviled egg cups" as "deviled egg halves". This suggests that your position is correct, not Nunk's.
posted by Bwithh at 3:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Carl Sandburg weighs in: If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?
posted by nonane at 3:47 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


You're both correct. A deviled egg is a cup when the noun is used in the sentence, "Bring me a deviled egg from the buffet." A half a deviled egg is a cup in the sentence, "You can half of one of these deviled eggs."
posted by OmieWise at 3:49 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with the OP and disagree with Nunk and his obviously paid-off cronies in this thread.
posted by theredpen at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry, half of one 'deviled egg' is one-quarter of the initial, whole egg.

This does not change the fact that Nunk is stingy.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:56 PM on May 5, 2011


Nunk is eggsacly right.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:08 PM on May 5, 2011


Who would want to cut a deviled egg in half? Common sense says one half is one cup.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:10 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The church ladies of any state in the midwest would agree that one deviled egg is one cup. If you are asked to bring two dozen deviled eggs to the potluck, you get one dozen raw eggs and mix up the batch. That is all.
posted by BlooPen at 4:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think from a precise standpoint you are correct, but from a conversational-everyday standpoint your friend is correct.
posted by edgeways at 4:23 PM on May 5, 2011


Have you ever made deviled eggs yourself? First, you make the hard-boiled eggs. Then, you cut them in half. Then, you mash up and season the yolks. Then you pipe or spoon this mixture back into the halves, and usually add a bit of paprika or other garnish on top.

At this point, you didn't know which egg-white half goes with which egg-white half. You also have combined all the yolks into a mashed up mess. So, if you really wanted back your whole egg, you would have to pick apart the yolks, and do some sort of analysis to fine the other white.

When someone offers you a deviled egg, you get the Nunk-sized portion.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 4:29 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The convention is that one egg yields two deviled eggs. If you look at most recipes, such as this one at Epicurious, you'll see that they call for n eggs to yield 2n deviled eggs. Nunk was offering you half a cup.
posted by (alice) at 4:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Imagine you have a plate of French fries - for which the full proper name is "French-fried potatoes" - and I ask you: "May I please have one French-friend potato?" Because I'm all proper and I talk like that, see?

You say "Yes, my good man. You may have one French-fried potato."

So I, being a master puzzle-solver, meticulously identify each fry that came from one potato and I reassemble one entire potato made of fries. I then move that reassembled potato to my plate, where I proceed to eat it, one fry at a time. Did I not comply technically with the offer and acceptance that occurred between us? Yes. Nevertheless, there was no meeting of the minds and my intent - to obtain from you an entire potato's worth of fries - was masked by my torturing of the plain meaning of the language used in our transaction. Similarly, you tortured the plain meaning of the language in your transaction with Nunk so that you might unfairly and to Nunk's detriment take more than was clearly offered.

What Nunk offered - half a deviled egg - was gross and unreasonable. Perhaps Mr. Nunk intended to gross you out and convince you that it was not worth it to eat any portion of a deviled egg if you could not have the entire deviled egg. If that was his intent, then I say "bravo" to you, sir. For you achieved your goal - to eat one deviled egg - in spite of your friend's unreasonable offer of half a deviled egg. Nevertheless, your victory comes not from a technically-correct interpretation of the offer, but from your rejection of the plain (but gross) meaning of the offer and your performance of a separate and distinct counter-offer without communicating that counter-offer to Nunk prior to your performance. In order to make Mr. Nunk whole, as it were, you might offer to regurgitate the half of the deviled egg to which you were not entitled. Yes, that would be gross. But so, too, was Nunk's offer a gross one.

Therefore, having considered all facts presented and all applicable common sense rules and definitions, I ORDER you to admit that your interpretation of Nunk's offer was unreasonable. I ORDER Nunk to admit that his offer was, at best, gross, and, at worst, disingenuous. IT IS SO ORDERED.

Again, The World Famous has spoken. I am the final authority on this matter. There is no further appeal. Don't bother taking this to Judge John Hodgman. He is wise; this is true. But I am a higher authority on this particular matter.

This is the sound of a gavel.
posted by The World Famous at 4:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [38 favorites]


"Two deviled eggs in an egg" is clearly the popular usage, but it's so stupid that I want to take your side anyway, in the same way that I will not accept "irregardless" as a word even in the depressing likelihood that it becomes standard usage.

Say candied yams were always served in quarters. Would you guys say a yam makes four candied yams? Hell, you probably would. But that's just because one of Nunk's "associaties" recently paid you a visit with a suitcase full of $20's, isn't it?

Seriously, though, only one man can decide. You guys would be perfect.
posted by abcde at 5:01 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


The World Famous obviously has the right answer. It is SO obviously the right answer that if it does not get chosen as best answer, I will have to conclude this dilemma never existed at all and we've all been punked.

Kind of like the time that trickster Nunk offered you half a deviled egg...
posted by crackingdes at 5:05 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


one egg produces two deviled eggs, no question. (If someone brings 'a dozen deviled eggs' to a picnic, they hardboiled six whole eggs to make twelve cups --- love your term, by the way! --- full of egg yolk + secret ingredients.)
posted by easily confused at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2011


I can't believe this seems to be the fastest moving conversation on MeFi this evening.

or maybe I can
posted by carter at 5:15 PM on May 5, 2011


You ate one deviled egg.

However, a deviled egg is a quantum measurement which cannot be further divided.
posted by RobotHero at 5:15 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


One egg will yield both two deviled eggs, and two deviled half-eggs. It's a quirk of language, like "pair of pants".

Also eating half-of-a-half isn't gross if you use a knife to cut the deviled half-egg in half. Then you would have both half a deviled egg, and deviled quarter-egg.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:16 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is no way Nunk offered half a cup. Nunk was offering 1 cup, which prior to The Argument Churl considered to be "one half of an eggs worth of deviled egg"

1 eggs worth of deviled egg = 2 cups
1/2 eggs worth of deviled egg = 2/2 cups = 1 cup

Nunk != gross
posted by cathoo at 5:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would just note that, although there have been numerous amicus letters presented herein as purported "answers," there is only one binding order.
posted by The World Famous at 5:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're both right. If someone offered me either half a deviled egg or a deviled egg, I would assume that they meant one cup, because the alternative interpretation would be, in the former case, that they were offering you a half-cup (which seems unlikely because it wouldn't be practical; wouldn't the filling not stay put if you cut it in half?), and in the latter case, that they were offering you two cups (again, not likely, because who offers things in pairs? "Would you like two cokes?" Weird.)
posted by andrewpendleton at 5:25 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


The World Famous is right. At lunch, you thought "man, those deviled eggs look good, I should ask my generous dear friend Nunk if I may eat one". Naturally, when Nunk obliged, albeit strangely (you may have half of one deviled egg, sir), you just thought "oh, that's Nunk for you, always being odd. Why would I want only half of one of the objects on his plate? They don't even split up very well." And you grabbed one.

When he got all huffy, you had to take the ridiculous stance that "half a deviled egg" means "a deviled egg" to most of us here. Nunk did that to you. You should curse his name to the depths. Think about that the next time you see him.
posted by King Bee at 5:31 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I say a deviled egg is one cup. So does my husband.
posted by freshwater at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2011


I agreed with you until I looked up some recipes. A recipe that uses n eggs does indeed yield 2n deviled eggs. Sorry.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is no different than saying you have a pair of pants when you really have one item of clothing to wear.

Offering a half a deviled egg would mean different things depending on how the egg white was cut and filled. Even if the egg white was cut into quarters from the original whole, any time he offered you a half a deviled egg you would need to cut whatever size was initially proffered. What he could have said was, "I'll split one with you" which would have caused a different kind of confusion relating mostly to how to divide one. Use a knife? Cut length wise or width? Take a bite?

The only way Nunk is right is if he had handed you an implement to divide the deviled egg, whatever size it was served, in half.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:07 PM on May 5, 2011


Why make this harder than it has to be?
It should be obvious that half a deviled egg is what you get from half a deviled chicken.
posted by spasm at 6:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey all you wonderful people, I did want to check in here and let you know I'm absolutely still following the thread closely, and I emailed it to Nunk, who has been checking in on it from where he's at as well. I'll spare you the details of his and my concurrent text-message-meta-argument. But I promise it's (mostly) good-natured.

I did feel it was kind of a gentleman's agreement that I wouldn't engage in any counter-arguments in the thread – nor would he sign up just to do the same – lest this just become the next stadium for he and I to stage this grand ridiculous battle in.

That said, I do want to respond to a couple specific individual things raised here, but I want to first check with him to see if there's anything he wants to clarify at the same time.

Anyways, rest assured I/we are still here. I would never drop this on you and just disappear.
posted by churl at 7:49 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks to you guys, I just made and ate 6 deviled eggs at almost 10pm. Also thanks to you guys, I am telling my husband it was only 3.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:56 PM on May 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


A single hard boiled egg is merely one ingredient in the recipe that produces two deviled eggs. By offering you half of a deviled egg, your compatriot Nunk did indeed intend you to only take half of one "cup". However, as stipulated in the abovementioned commentary, unless he then proffered an implement of slicing (hereinafter referred to as a "knife"), Nunk was suggesting that in order to claim your half you would have to bite into his lunch and return the uneaten portion to him for consumption. The court leaves it to your judgement (as the one who knows Nunk best) if he is indeed so oblivious to the rules of hygenic food-sharing (colloquially referred to as "I don't want that after it's been in your mouth, dude") that he intended this as a serious offer, or whether he was trying to invoke said rule to shame you into declining the offer, which was made as no more than a nod to courtesy by a gentleman who felt that the quantity of deviled eggs present was insufficient to countenance division between two hungry people. Your friend is in the right lexicographically, but whether it is you or he who is in the right morally? Ah, there is a conundrum that is deviled indeed.
posted by MsMolly at 7:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is some kind of pun that has been taken, in good nature, much too far.
"Can I have half a deviled egg?"
"You may have a deviled egg."
"May I halve a deviled egg?"
"You may have halved a deviled egg, but you've had the whole thing."
Deviled eggs are, I think, by the piece. And it freaks me out a little when I go to a bar and the plate of deviled eggs consists of three pieces, like dim sum.

Which leads me to wonder, given the huge size of the modern egg, why aren't the whites cut into quartered wedges then topped with a piped ball of deviled yolk.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 8:23 PM on May 5, 2011


I concur with MsMolly and join in her opinion.
posted by The World Famous at 8:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nunk is correct. It may not be logical, but language is often illogical, especially where food is concerned. See previous AskMe threads which concluded cereal is not a soup, and a hot dog is not a sandwich, despite the fact that any objective definition of "soup" and "sandwich" would include cereal and hot dogs respectively, unless they were arbitrarily and specifically excluded from the definitions in the first place. Likewise, note that a "buffalo wing" is a chicken wing segment (three segments comprise an actual chicken wing, although the smallest of the three is often discarded), prepared Buffalo-style.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:30 PM on May 5, 2011


This is a Sur La Table deviled egg platter. It exists for the sole purpose of holding deviled eggs for you to share with your good friend Nunk. Who, by the way, has a delightful name that makes me think of cavemen.

But I digress.

Look at the indentations in the plate, which, again, waits only to be filled with the delicious goodness of deviled eggs, and you will note that there are twelve of these hollows, each able to hold one of what you have so concisely dubbed an 'egg cup'. So, one dozen indentations, yes?

And, when you look at the description, what does it say? Holds up to 12 deviled eggs.

It cannot be, then, that two egg cups make one deviled egg, for then we would find that, for the plate to hold them, there would need to be 24 indentations where there are only 12.

Ergo, one egg cup = one deviled egg.
posted by misha at 8:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Arrgh!! A chicken wing comprises three segments. Not the other way around. I know better than that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:33 PM on May 5, 2011


And I would like to note that as a DevilsAdvocate, I have some expertise in all things deviled.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:38 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me get this straight. You host a party and there's one egg-cup left on the platter. Someone asks you to hand them a deviled egg and you respond, "I'm sorry, we're out of entire deviled eggs. All we have left is this half of a deviled egg."

Ridiculous.
posted by odinsdream at 8:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


For example, if you were to say, "I'm going to make a deviled egg, do you want one?"

You see, that is a major flaw of your argument. People don't say that. You can see that most usage of the phrase "a deviled egg" is as a modifier, e.g. a deviled egg sandwich, a deviled egg recipe, a deviled egg plate.

Results for the term "a deviled egg" only have 100,000 results to "deviled eggs"' 2.5 million. Deviled eggs are not typically prepared individually; they're a party food prepared in bulk. It's strange to think of any object with the wacky counting scheme you propose, much less this specific food.

Finally, what if you are eating half a hard-boiled egg? Are you not eating "a halved egg"? So doesn't it follow that to "devil" means to "halve"?
posted by acidic at 9:09 PM on May 5, 2011


So wait a minute -- when you asked Nunk if you could have "a deviled egg," were you asking him for one cup or two?

Sadly, there's no correct answer here: if it's the former, you're a hypocrite, and if the latter, you're a deviled egg hog.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 9:12 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Where are the googledoc graphs and charts for this? It is way better than politics.

(I'm in the 1 egg yields 2 deviled eggs group)
posted by nile_red at 9:25 PM on May 5, 2011


In the abstract, the phrase "half a deviled egg" appears to be ambiguous. You and Nunck have each been able to identify and offer competing, and equally plausible, definitions of this phrase. Logical arguments can be made to support either definition. We are left with two reasonable and competing interpretations of an ambiguous term.

While it is possible to stop the analysis here, I think doing so would be unsatisfactory to both you and Nunk. Therefore, I propose that in order to resolve this latent ambiguity surrounding the phrase "half a deviled egg", we resort to the extrinsic evidence about the situation in which such a phrase was uttered.

The situation: You and Nunck, eating lunch, Nunck in possession of a small quantity of deviled eggs, a finger food, which in polite company is offered only in whole pieces.

While the phrase "half a deviled egg" appears on its face ambiguous, I believe that once we agree that once we agree to resort to an examination of the extrinsic evidence surrounding the utterance of this phrase, we are left with one, and only one, reasonable interpretation of the term "half a deviled egg". That reasonable interpretation would be yours, OP, that "half a deviled egg" is equivalent to "one cup", and the logical extension of this interpretation, that one egg, deviled, produces "two cups".

This is because to hold otherwise would produce an absurd result. It would suggest that Nunck was not polite company- because he would have been offering you a single bite, a mere piece of clearly indivisible finger food. But since your further description of your lunch partner indicates that Nunck is a "gentleman", and that he is engaged, with you, in an ontological exploration of deviled eggs, what some might label a "scholarly" pursuit, it is clear that Nunck is both a gentleman and a scholar.

It is simply incongruent to suggest that Nunck, a gentleman and a scholar, would not be polite company at lunch. Therefore, OP, your interpretation of deviled eggs must hold.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 10:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's moot now, but since he offered you half a deviled egg I kinda wish you took one cup, licked out the yolk (the best part of a deviled egg anyway) and then handed him back the boiled white. That'll learn him!
posted by like_neon at 2:23 AM on May 6, 2011


Nunk muddied the the water when he responded to you that you could have half a deviled egg. That is silly and confusing and no one does that. If I were in your shoes I would have thought A.) Nunk is a secret Mefite and is being pedantic in some way that I didn't get and I'm not taking the bait, or B.)Nunk must be from an area where they number deviled eggs differently*, I would have taken the whole deviled egg in either case.

You were giving Nunk the benefit of the doubt as to what he meant by half a deviled egg, and when challenged by him, instead of calling him out on the weirdness of his reply, you jumped wrongly into the one cup equals a half egg defense just to save face (insert some kind of egg on face pun here that I just couldn't work in).


*Possibly influenced by an experience I had when I was about 7 years old and having breakfast at my new neighbors house. She asked me how many pieces of toast I would like with my eggs. I said "One, please". I received one half of a slice of toasted bread! I was outraged (on the inside).Who counts toast as half slices of bread?
I eventually got over it, but obviously never forgot it.
posted by newpotato at 4:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This question seems conclusively resolved, but just chiming in to say that referring to a deviled egg (which we can almost unanimously agree is half of an egg, prepared in the devil's fashion) as a "cup" makes my stomach do something really weird. Like the word "moist."

Hopefully you and Nunk will one day look back on this two-men-one-cup disagreement and say "oh dear god I can't believe we ever called them that."
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:45 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Nunk is correct, but he is also a bad person for offering half of a deviled egg. So you both win!
posted by Grither at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are both wrong.

You are wrong in the sense that, clearly, a deviled egg refers to a single cup. Recipes, Sur la Table, my mom, and many other authorities agree on this single point. When you asked Nunk for a deviled egg you expected a single cup, and that is where Nunk is (was?) wrong. "Half a deviled egg" is a preposterous thing - I've never even seen one (in the sense that he meant it, anyway), so rather than deal with Nunk offering you a nearly impossible item, you interpreted him incorrectly.

But I don't blame you.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:17 AM on May 6, 2011


I agree that 1 egg yields 2 devilled eggs. If a friend offered me half a devilled egg I would assume either they meant 1 cup or really didn't want to share their eggs and so offered something impractical - depending on the friend and the delivery of the offer.
posted by missmagenta at 6:27 AM on May 6, 2011


Also: Nunk and Churl? That's gold, baby!
posted by dirtdirt at 7:13 AM on May 6, 2011


I took this to two recognized authorities on food. The Joy of Cooking website clearly states that 4 eggs yield 8 stuffed eggs. Cooks Illustrated, on the other hand, states that 6 eggs yield a dozen filled egg halves (and is behind a pay wall so you have to take my word for it).
posted by TedW at 7:37 AM on May 6, 2011


Nunk is right, as everyone in this thread has so rationally explained to you.

Also: when you asked for "a deviled egg", if Nunk had said yes, would you have taken two cups? Because that would have gotten a weird look from me, if I were Nunk.
posted by penduluum at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


YOU ARE ALL WRONG.
posted by functionequalsform at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2011


In my cognitive ling classes we used this as a test for canonical or exemplary members of a category: if I asked you to draw me "a deviled egg," what would you draw? Most people would draw one cup. I have prepared, consumed, transported, discussed, and gazed upon many deviled eggs in my life, and "a deviled egg" had always equaled one half of an egg, stuffed.

HOWEVER. Language is contextual, and if a friend offered me "half a deviled egg," I would probably assume at that moment that they were strange, but also that they intended for me to take half a cup, or one quarter of an egg, stuffed. But I would also assume that any future discussions of deviled eggs would be based on the general shared assumption that "a deviled egg" is one cup.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:01 AM on May 6, 2011


A minor digression - allegations of Nunk's perceived grossness may be unfounded. The question states that the contentious eggs composed part of a larger meal, in which case it is highly probable that cutlery was involved. This makes Nunk's proposal of halving a 'cup' no less bizarre but it would eliminate the potential grossness for those more squeamish.
posted by Captain Najork at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2011


I realize this question has been answered, but if you look at recipes, they require 6 eggs, and say it yields 12 deviled eggs. So, yeah, 1 egg makes 2 devilded eggs.
posted by shesaysgo at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2011


Speaking as someone who has had similar arguments with my best friend for about a decade now, I have resorted to using the Exactly/But defense. Perhaps a bit sophomoric, but it makes me happy.

Instructions on using the: "Exactly/But" defense with friends:


Person #1:
"When I offered you *half* of a deviled egg at that party in 2006, I simply cannot believe that you would assume that I meant an entire deviled egg, which is indeed what you have consumed just now. As ANYONE with a brain knows, deviling ONE egg yields TWO deviled eggs. Deviled eggs are the product of a recipe that uses eggs as one of several ingredients, and the result is quantified independently of the number of eggs that go into it. Each resultant discrete unit should indeed be individually referred to as "a deviled egg". *Furthermore*, if you were to say "bring me one of those deviled eggs," you would not expect to be given two portions. Thus, deviling an egg yields two deviled eggs. You accurately refer to one egg as two deviled eggs."


Person #2:
Stare intently at Person #1 for about 10-20 seconds... smile condescendingly, then say:
"Exactly!!!"
"But... *think* about that."

Walk away.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, so most people think of each piece as a deviled egg. Fine. But I've never heard them referred to as "cups."* You sort of collectively refer to a plate of the things as "deviled eggs." And each piece is a "half" of an egg. So if he offered you a half, you took the right thing.

Each one is a deviled egg. Each piece is also a half.
It's not half of a deviled egg, but it is a deviled egg half. He was unclear, at best, and was rightly punished for lack of clarity.
_____
*And the word skeeves me out as well, Metroid Baby.
posted by theredpen at 11:41 AM on May 6, 2011


I think people are overlooking the absolute most important point here.

If the halved egg with filling had been sliced in half, the yolk mix would have FALLEN OUT. It would no longer be half a deviled egg (or a quarter of a deviled egg, or some amount thereof); it would be a quarter of a hard-boiled egg white and some goop on the floor.

No, no, no, no. It would be desecration of a hard-boiled egg to slice it and allow the yolk mix to escape. Thus, any suggestion which involves slicing the half-egg is heresy.
posted by galadriel at 12:25 PM on May 6, 2011


Finally, what if you are eating half a hard-boiled egg? Are you not eating "a halved egg"? So doesn't it follow that to "devil" means to "halve"?

What? No. "Deviled" means "spiced" or "spicy". See deviled ham, deviled crab, deviled chicken drumsticks, deviled kidneys, etc.
posted by Lexica at 1:08 PM on May 6, 2011


No, no, no, no. It would be desecration of a hard-boiled egg to slice it and allow the yolk mix to escape. Thus, any suggestion which involves slicing the half-egg is heresy.

Some yolk recipes are pretty firm, especially if they were made yesterday and sat in the fridge over night. I think my go-to recipe would survive a carefully-made split down the middle.
posted by muddgirl at 1:27 PM on May 6, 2011


I only have a minute to pop in here, although there's so many excellent points I wish I could respond to. (I also wish I'd phrased my side slightly differently, but, you know.)

I should clarify something, primarily. I don't think anyone disagrees that there's a lot of situations where "a deviled egg" naturally and intuitively means, like, one unit / half an egg to most people. I don't know that this is formally correct or exact, but it's obviously natural to commonly refer to it that way. There's a million examples here. But there's also situations where referring to two halves as "a deviled egg" makes natural and intuitive sense, like if you're ordering a deviled egg off a menu at a sandwich shop. As I have. Nunk agrees with this.

Likewise, as mentioned upthread, recipe yields typically say either
- n eggs yield 2n deviled eggs
or
- n eggs yield 2n deviled egg halves

I don't know which is more common but there's certainly many examples of each. I don't think anyone disagrees that both usages exist.

Nunk says in a recipe yield, "Deviled Egg Halves" mean the same thing as "Deviled Eggs", and so in the context of his offer, "half a deviled egg" can and should be expected to mean half of what I took.

But I contend it's a clear demonstration that "half a deviled egg" (as Nunk offered) can and should be expected to mean half-an-egg's-worth, in context of his offer. I say half a deviled egg is the same as a deviled egg half.

Nunk also wants to mention that if he were paying cronies to post in this thread, they wouldn't all be impugning his dignity like this.
posted by churl at 2:05 PM on May 6, 2011


(he actually takes it in good spirit)
posted by churl at 3:09 PM on May 6, 2011


Google results for "deviled egg": about 1,530,000. Top results include Wikipedia, deviledegg.com, and other recipe sites.

Google results for "deviled egg half": about 15,600. Top result is this thread.

"Deviled egg half" is a strained grammatical construction to argue (or belabor) your point. As wonderfully hilarious as this thread's been, you're kind of engaging in a disingenuous behavior. You basically asked an "amirite?" and when told overwhelmingly that you weren't, you've switched into "let's agree to disagree" mode.

I should certainly hope that Nunk takes the thread in good spirit, though. It's basically given him tons of entertainment as your attempt to settle something in your favor backfired!
posted by explosion at 9:27 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ey, pitchforks down! I'm taking everything here to heart, I promise

Since Nunk co-formulated the question, he and I are gonna talk about what the Best Answers are before I mark them. I do think after five years we are gonna finally be able to put the damn thing to bed.
posted by churl at 3:25 PM on May 7, 2011


i am presently chilling 6 eggs to make 12 deviled eggs. there's horseradish in the house. oh, this is gonna be good.
posted by nadawi at 6:09 PM on May 7, 2011


I talked with Nunk for about an hour and a half last night; about the question, this thread, what the Best Answers are, and where that leaves us.

I also recorded it, and I think it makes a nice, kinda entertaining postmortem. It's edited down to 22 minutes and uploaded here: direct link to mp3. (Note there's a bit of salty language in there.) I'm marking all the best answers we talked about here too.

Thanks for resolving this. I love you all
posted by churl at 8:34 PM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


churl, thank you for the mp3 update on this, it was awesome.
posted by King Bee at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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