Sunday, April 18, 2010

When 'Domestic' Doesn't Mean Domestic

I pointed out in "The Elephants of Style" that Samuel Adams often shows up on bars' lists of "imported" beer, and that phenomenon bubbled up at the tavern where the American Copy Editors Society toasted the conclusion of its recent conference in Philadelphia.

We were given wristbands that entitled us to $3 pints of domestic draft beer, and so I took a look at the taps and pointed to a Pennsylvania microbrew. That would cost more than $3, the bartender told me, adding that " 'Domestic' means Bud, Miller, Coors . . ."

It might be time for the more descriptivist dictionaries to add that:

6. ordinary or inexpensive [domestic beer]

I settled for a Yuengling, brewed in the town of my birth, which might qualify as premium elsewhere but is "domestic" in both senses of the word in Pennsylvania. (Is there a term that means "non-premium" but wouldn't turn off the marketing types? "Regular beer," to follow the gasoline analogy, falls a little short.)