Wow, Does This Look Good!

I happened across the above photo online.

This dish did look good.

And it wasn’t complicated, though it contained an ingredient I’d never heard of:  Campbell’s Sweet Potato Cooking Soup.

I put together my list – the soup, chicken, frozen southwest vegetables, black beans, siracha hot chili sauce…

I couldn’t wait to smell it cooking.

I couldn’t wait…


Go back and look at the soup can.

Notice anything?

“Potato” is misspelled.

No, Campbell’s didn’t do that – I did.

That “e” on the end of “potato” doesn’t look all that wrong, does it?

Vice President Dan Quayle didn’t think so, back in mid-June 1992.

It was an election year, and Quayle was on the campaign trail, as was his running mate, George H.W. Bush.

One of Quayle’s stops was an elementary school in New Jersey, and the setup was Quayle leading a sixth-grade student spelling bee.  He called on one of the kids, and asked him to write “potato” on the blackboard.  The kid did, and put down the chalk.

Then Quayle suggested the kid to add an “e” to the end of the word:

It was the “e” heard around the world.

The vice president, the person whose primary function is, if needed, to assume the role of president of the United States…

Couldn’t spell “potato.”

The media had a field day:

And this story has followed Dan Quayle around ever since.

Why am I writing about this?

In part, because I can sympathize with Dan Quayle.

I, too, have misspelled “potato,” adding an “e” to the end.

I have also misspelled “tomato,” adding an “e” to the end.

It doesn’t look all that wrong, and you know why?

Because we add an “e” at the end of “potato” and “tomato” to make them plural:



Why do we add an “e” before that “s”?

For absolutely no logical reason at all.

That’s my conclusion, after visiting numerous websites trying to ascertain why.

The rule appears to be that we add an “es” to some words ending in the letter “o,” for example:


But we don’t add an “es” to all words ending in the letter “o” such as:


And there’s a bunch of words that end in “o” where I guess we just throw caution to the wind and spell them any damn way we choose, because both plural forms of spelling are considered acceptable, including:


No wonder English is known as one of the hardest languages to learn. 

It often makes no sense:  if a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?  And there are so many rules, and then so many exceptions to those rules, like the “s” vs. “es” examples above.

Then there’s the order in which we put words – we’d say, “An interesting little book” but not “A little interesting book,” because it just sounds right.  And pronunciation is so tricky, like silent letters.  Why is there a “k” in “knife,” if we don’t pronounce the “k”?

And do not get me started on homophones:  A bandage is wound around a wound.  And to, too and two.


How did I go from talking about a recipe to bemoaning homophones, with the Tale of Dan Quayle in between?

It’s to say that I have, once and for all, finally and forever…

…Assimilated the fact that there is NO “e” in potato or tomato.

Unless those words are plural.

Or unless you’re a vice president.

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