Anniversary Post: Sliced Bread

Sliced BreadOn this day in 1928, the best thing since sliced bread was sliced bread. That’s because it was on this day that sliced bread was first brought to market by the Chillicothe Baking Company. Apparently, the bread slicing machine had been around for 16 years before that. But no one thought to start selling sliced bread. And do you wanna know why that is? Because it is really kind of silly. Who needs pre-sliced breads?!

Look, I grew up with sliced bread. At one time, it boggled my mind that pre-sliced bread had to be invented. After all, doesn’t everyone want their bread sliced eventually? Why not have it done before you buy it? Well, I have to admit that when I was a kid, I thought it was a great idea that the televisions that they made in the Soviet Union didn’t have a volume control — it just had a single volume. (I have no idea whether that was just Cold War propaganda or not.) I thought, “Great! Perfect volume!” But of course, it wasn’t the perfect volume. It was just the volume. Well, it’s the same thing about bread, and I think most bread is sliced too thin.

Regardless, it just isn’t hard to slice your own bread. There are many great time saving conveniences to come out of the 20th century. The washing machine comes to mind. But pre-sliced bread does not. I’m not against it. But it just doesn’t much matter. The only reason that anyone thinks it matters is because they are used to it. Sliced bread is typical of American consumerism: it fills a manufactured need. The true creativity is convincing people that they need it.

Given this, I think we should change the phrase, “The best thing since sliced bread!” We should say it ironically. Supposed that The History Channel put out another Swamp People reality show. We could say, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” It would be perfect. For one thing, it would be a new show that no one is asking for. No one would actually want it. Yet after it was available, people would wonder how they ever got along without it. We could even combine the phrase with another of my favorites phrases, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread, because people are dumb as a bag of rocks.”

But happy birthday sliced bread!

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Sliced Bread

  1. It’s not irony if you point out that it’s irony. It’s probably not irony if everyone gets that it’s irony.

    The urban legends I heard about Soviet radios is that there was no tuning knob, although maybe there was no volume knob either. Ironically, once I heard a radiovangelist say something like wouldn’t it be nice to have a radio that only got one station, I guess so you can tune out all that secular garbage.

    In the days of film photography the cheapest cameras were non-adjustable. They nevertheless satisfied their target market to the extent that those users were targeting small groups of people at a distance of about six feet under normal daylight or flash, and weren’t ordering enlargements. Once the first auto-focus cameras came out, the non-adjustable cameras of course got the marketing buzzphrase “focus-free.”

    • That’s a good point. If the televisions didn’t have volume controls, I’m sure it was an economic matter, not a political one. Russia was a poor country. Also, I do think in the west we have this problem of providing “alternatives not choice.” One of my biggest concerns in modern America is the way that the news has endless variety but no real choice. It’s like the wars in 1984 — over small and useless bits of territory.

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