27 September 2011

"100% pure orange juice"

The phrasing on the label is clearly awkward (presumably they mean it's a mixture of orange juice concentrate and unconcentrated orange juice).  But as I pondered the photo, I also began to wonder whether the other phrase - "100% pure" - is grammatically correct or not.

My dictionary defines "pure" is defined as "free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind," unmodified, homogeneous, absolute, untainted, virgin, etc.  With that understanding, is "pure" an absolute term, like "unique," and is "100% pure" unnecessarily redundant?  Can something be 90% pure? 40% pure?

This is certainly not important.  It's the sort of stuff that English majors, wordfreaks, and copyeditors like to puzzle over. 

Found at Video Martyr, a blog featuring posts about ephemera and urban archaeology.

Addendum: And a hat tip to Max, who found this related item at Consumerist:
Even though it says "not from concentrate," it probably sat in a large vat for up to year with all the oxygen removed from it. This allows it to be preserved and dispensed all year-round. Taking out all the O2 also gets rid of all the flavor. So the juice makers have to add the flavors back in using preformulated recipes full of chemicals called "flavor packs."

24 comments:

  1. In marketing English, anything is possible.

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  2. Is water a food product? If it is they are liars if it isn't it's 100% orange juice.

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  3. Same difference, it seems:
    http://consumerist.com/2011/07/oj-flavor-packs.html

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  4. Very interesting, Max. Thank you. Learning about food is sometimes rather disconcerting.

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  5. Well in physics you can express the purity of a gas as a percentage, so in that particular case it wouldn't be a pleonasm. Not quite sure it applies to orange juice though.

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  6. I just returned the book Squeezed to the library. Orange juice has some very strange things done to it before it ends up in a carton labeled "fresh".

    Buying a sack of oranges and juicing them myself tastes so much better.

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  7. Seban, if you supplied an emphysema patient with a gas mixture that was 28% oxygen (72% nitrogen), you would never call it "28% pure oxygen." The puzzling part is combining the % with the word "pure."

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  8. Those articles certainly curb my enthusiasm for orange juice.

    The "100%" label is another useful tool for marketers striving to encourage sales by promising as much as they can while reducing costs by delivering as little as possible.

    At the chain market where I work "100% Blueberry Juice" contains nothing but blueberry juice. "Blueberry Juice: 100% Juice" sounds like the same stuff but is really blueberry mixed with cheaper juices like apple and white grape. The "100% juice" label is strictly true--the drink is all juice--but strongly suggests it's all blueberry.

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  9. Stan, no you wouldn't. Like you wouldn't call a mixture of 99% nitrogen and 1% contaminant gases a "1% pure contaminant gases" mixture. But "99% pure nitrogen" doesn't strike me as totally asinine.

    When someone uses the word "pure", it usually means that they are trying to produce a substance with a purity of 100%, but have to account for some contaminant.

    For example, in crystalline metals, impurities have a significant effect on physical properties, so manufacturers provide an indication of their number as a purity factor, usually in %.

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  10. Agreed. But if the substance were all thallium, you'd say "100% thallium" or "pure thallium," not "100% pure thallium."

    It's not a big deal. Just trying to get some utility out of my otherwise-not-very-useful old English major degree.

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  11. Don't any of youse guys remember "99 and 47/100 percent pure"? That was Ivory Soap's slogan back in the day. Don't know what the heck it meant. Pure what? Isn't soap a mixture to start with?

    --Swift Loris

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  12. Was hoping someone would mention "Squeezed". Heard an interview with the author and was fascinated at how very much it can diverged from freshly squeezed juice exactly as it comes from the fruit, and be truthfully labelled as being "From fresh-squeezed oranges"

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  13. Swift Loris-
    Your Ivory was better than mine. I only got 99-44/100% pure. But like you, I often wondered about the remaining 0.0056.

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  14. Swift Loris:
    Ivory Soap is a classic example of marketing over substance. They also bragged that "it floats" as if this were a special quality they added to the soap. Apparently floating was an unintended by-product of the manufacturing process and the company just decided to make the best of it.

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    Replies
    1. It is a special quality (and not unintended as others pointed out). It shoved them out in front of the pack since other soaps sank to the bottom of the tub. A very nice feature.

      As for the purity. This was also a marketing differentiator for them. So many other soaps had perfumes and what not. Many people wanted a cheap commercial soap that was just... just soap. Especially people with sensitive skin. Ivory still more or less owns that market niche.

      "Marketing over substance". No... really... Ivory trumpets their strengths and in this case, fairly honestly. It floats and it is "just soap." And guess what? That sells.

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    2. Ooo! You Ivory fan-boys drive me crazy! Can't I enjoy a website's good commentary without you clean trolls dropping to say "...how great Ivory soap is..." Ugh!!

      Actually Todd, thanks for chiming in with more product knowledge. I took the photo that started this thread after my wife pointed it out to me. Props to Minnesotastan for linking the story to my site, or giving me props. I wondered why I started seeing folks show up from here.

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  15. @Smurfswacker

    Not true.It can be classified as an Urban Legend, albeit one pushed by Proctor & Gamble up to 2004.
    See:
    http://www.snopes.com/business/origins/ivory.asp
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_(soap)

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  16. formerlawyer: This being the Internet I suppose I should curse and berate you for bursting my Ivory Soap bubble...but I'm feeling 99-44/100% pure today and instead stand corrected.

    I always believed the story because the company had admitted an error. This was so unusual that I figured they really meant it.

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  17. At least I live in a climate where I can steal real oranges from an alley between my buildings and the service yard of a major telco.

    But there will be few oranges this year because of the drought. Maybe about one tenth the oranges I gathered all winter two years ago. If only Rick Perry's prayers had brought rain.

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  18. Or they can just petition the FDA(holes) to substitute oranges for other orange stuff and still call it genuine orange juice. - like the brown stuff and the chocolate industry

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  19. @Swift Loris

    They had a scientist sit down and figure out how much of the product was doing actual soap-like work: surfactants, moisturizing, etc. The other 56/100 of 1% was by-product of the manufacturing process that did not do soapy stuff...

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  20. The one that really gets me is "Made With 100% Pure ___." What kind of sense does that make? The olive oil can be as pure as it wants, but what does it matter if it's the fifth ingredient on the list?

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  21. 100% is added for emphasis?

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  22. I've recently been incensed by the "healthy" pastas that are labeled "100% whole wheat blend." The ingredients list has something like: "100% whole wheat blend (wheat, whole wheat, ...), salt, ..." What is a 100% blend !?!

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