Recently, I watched the movie Wall Street again. Apart from it being a great and interesting movie (interesting enough to spend a university session on watching it during my Business Studies), it’s also one of those movies that’s a nice documentation of the zeitgeist in the period it was shot. Watching it this time, I couldn’t help but notice a remark the main character Bud Fox makes to his father. At one point they’re sitting down in a bar, and father Fox complains about his wife’s spaghetti. Bud Fox tells him that it’s called pasta these days.
Probably, at that time in the mid 1980s, this was indeed the going term for it. Using the word pasta meant you were evolving beyond the sophistication of the generation before you. Pasta, and probably many other words, were like a badge of honour. Using them meant you’ve stepped up in the world, were climbing the social ladder. Of course, now we all understand all too well that pasta is the umbrella-term for the staple including spaghetti, fettucini, macaroni, penne, ravioli and the likes. Now most, if not all, of us are able to distinguish between them. Or simply say we like to eat pasta, because we like all or most of the types it includes.
These days we might look down or ridicule the arrogance of Bud Fox a bit, when he tells his father to use pasta. Because now we know better. But without the arrogance of his generation, we might not have come to the collective level of sophistication in which we are able to distinguish correctly between the different types of pasta. It’s all part of going through the motions in a globalising world; of understanding a cultural artifact that’s going viral.