English was complicated, even before coronavirus.
Carry-out is complicated now, too. Because we’re doing more of it, and we’re using our complicated language to do it.
In Essex, Mass., you can order steamers. But what this actually means depends on your understanding of two words.
Order can mean demand (as in I order you to bring me steamed clams), or it can mean using your credit card to request (as in One large order of steamed clams, please).
Meanwhile, a steamer is a clam that has been steamed, or at least could be steamed. (Dictionary.com has never been to New England, I guess; they think this term only applies to soft-shell clams. Utterly untrue.)
But a steamer can also be the pot you do the steaming in, or the person who does the steaming. (Not to mention: a steamship.)
So, on the phone with my favorite seafood restaurant, do I intend to request some pots? Or perhaps bark commands to some worker in the kitchen?
To be safe, I can say like or request, rather than order.
But to make sure I get what I’m hungry for … well, they really need to change the word to steamees.