During the lead-up to D-Day—June 6, 1944—the Allied nations undertook an elaborate deception strategy designed to mislead the Germans about the real date and location of the Normandy invasion. The overall plan was called Operation Bodyguard; one of its more bizarre elements—the creation of a decoy army, complete with inflatable tanks and fake artillery—had the code name Operation Fortitude.
The choice of code name for this particular operation—the crux of Bodyguard—was much debated. [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill had given instructions that no code name should be selected that might seem flippant in retrospect or give a hint of the individual or action involved. But he also disliked code names that meant nothing at all, which is why the original choice, “Mespot,” was rejected. Also vetoed were “Bulldog,” “Swordhilt,” “Axehead,” “Tempest,” and, obscurely, “Lignite.” Finally, a name was selected that seemed to evoke the resolution required to pull it off: Operation Fortitude.
The story of Operation Fortitude is told in a new documentary by Rick Beyer, “The Ghost Army,” that had its premiere Tuesday night on PBS. (Repeat broadcasts are scheduled throughout the week.)
It wasn’t only the operations that were deliberately named. The code names of the double agents who worked for MI5, the British intelligence agency, were also chosen with care and a hefty dash of dry humor. Dusko Popov, for example, a risk-loving Serbian playboy, was dubbed “Agent Tricycle.”
This may have been, in part, a reference to Popov’s insatiable appetites and his reputed but probably apocryphal taste for three-in-a-bed sex. It also recognized that the Tricycle network now consisted of one big wheel—Popov—supported by two smaller ones, Agents Balloon and Gelatine.
The Americans took a different approach to code names. When Popov came to Washington in 1941 on an assignment from MI5, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who regarded foreign spies as “just another species of criminal,” was not amused. “The FBI did not go in for jocular code names,” Macintyre tells us. “Popov was ‘Confidential Informant ND 63,’ an austere title that aptly reflects the bureau’s chilly attitude.”
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Hip, centrally located – in the greenest building in Berkeley –and designed to please demanding foodies of every persuasion, from gluten-free vegans to whole-animal carnivores. (Are you surprised to learn the idea for restaurant came out of a “vision” during “a retreat in the California desert”? Neither am I.) The name suggests hunter-gatherers as well as gathering around the table.
Yes, it’s another way to say “gather,” but in this case there’s a historical resonance to the name that makes it a perfect fit for the location, in a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant on the bay in Richmond.
Shmeat: Meat grown in a laboratory from animal cells; the objectives include reducing animal cruelty and increasing the global supply of affordable protein. “Shmeat” is a portmanteau of “sheet” and “meat.”
An undated article on a website called Shmeat.com (apparently operated by SavingAdvice.com) explains the process:
Cells are harvested from a live animal, such as a chicken, pig or cow. The cells are then placed in a special solution of nutrients which mimics the qualities of blood. This nutrient solution will help the cells to multiply where they can then be secured to a spongy sheet which has been soaked with nutrient solution. The sheet is then stretched to increase cell size and protein content. It’s from the combination of this “sheet meat” that shmeat derives its name.
Shmeat was the subject of “Building a $325,000 Burger,”a May 14, 2013, story in the New York Times. Reporting from the Netherlands, where researcher Mark Post has created a proof-of-concept shmeat patty, science writer Henry Fountain noted that the burger “was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous.” Fountain went on:
“This is still an early-stage technology,” said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales who has long studied the development of what is also sometimes referred to as “shmeat.” “There’s still a huge number of things they need to learn.”
The origins of “shmeat” are uncertain. The earliest citation I could find is in a December 5, 2008, column by Lou Bendrick (“Meet Shmeat”) in the online environmental magazine Grist:
Test-tube meat is also known as in vitro meat, cultured meat, victimless meat, vat-grown meat, hydroponic meat, and, finally, shmeat. (Note to self: Be sure to apply for inevitable X Prize to rename this stuff.)
For now, let’s call it shmeat.
Shmeat is grown from a cell culture (hence the in vitro or cultured prefixes), not from a live animal. These harvested cells are taken from an animal, such as a pig, and placed in a “nutrient-rich medium” that mimics blood. Once the cells multiply they are attached to a spongy scaffold or sheet (sheet + meat = shmeat) that has been soaked with nutrients and stretched to increase cell size and protein content.
“Also known as” suggests that “shmeat” had already entered the vocabulary, but I couldn’t find an earlier citation.
As Bendrick jokingly points out, and as the title of his column underscores, “shmeat” is not a felicitous name for a serious product. (Shortly after the Grist column appeared, a commenter on the Offalgood website said “shmeat” was “a horrible name, it sounds like what you get when you cross shit and meat.”)
Words beginning with shm- indicate mockery or derision in Yiddish (see shmo, shmendrick, shmegegge, shmuck, etc.), and the pattern has been adopted in dismissive English reduplications like fancy-shmancy. (See my recent post, “Name, Shmame,” and related links.)
Obligatory Urban Dictionary addendum: “Shmeat: Small penis or dick, also reffering [sic] to any person or anything. It can be used for anything anyone and anything can be a shmeat.” Posted November 27, 2006, a full two years before the Grist column.