Best Potato Exhibit

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MaryamSeresht

Senior Member
Persian
Hello,

Would you please tell me if best is adjective for potato or for exhibit?

"The judge walked into the kitchen and found two green chilis looking ridiculous in a tin cup on a wooden stand that read "Best Potato Exhibit 1933."

It's part of Inheritance of Loss, a novel by Kiran Desai.

Thank you.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi Maryam

    I'd say the structure is best {potato exhibit}: in other words, that the reference is to the best exhibit, rather than the best potato. In the end, though, it doesn't matter very much - except that best {potato exhibit} would allow the possibility that the exhibit contained more than one potato...:cool:
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I'm fairly sure it refers to the best exhibit, not the best potatoes.

    It was common, at that time and even later, for 4-H Clubs (U.S. organizations devoted to improving the education of young people in rural areas) to create informational exhibits on various agricultural topics. These exhibits would compete in various categories, according to the most important types of agriculture in an area. An area that grew a lot of potatoes could have several potato exhibits by various people, and would award a prize for Best Potato Exhibit. In different parts of the U.S., there might be prizes for Best Sheep Exhibit or Best Artichoke Exhibit. Urban and suburban secondary schools do something similar today with science fairs.

    Whoever owned this stand in 1933 had the best exhibit of potatoes at the country fair that year. It might have had potatoes in it, but they didn't have to be especially good ones, just good for demonstrating whatever its topic was. It might not have any potatoes at all, but only photographs of potatoes, charts and text.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Setting this in India in 1933, the India of the Raj and British influence, I would go with Loob.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Not having read the book, and therefore not having that context, I am willing to concede that my reasoning was flawed - though, in the final analysis, my conclusion was the same as Loob's.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    I guess you need a speaker of IE if this takes place in India. In the U.S., I would parse it as {best potato} exhibit, that is, an exhibit of the best potato or potatoes. I don't think that in the U.S. we have competitions for who can best exhibit potatoes, regardless of their quality. What would that be—the most elegant, creative, or pleasing manner?

    We do have, or at least used to have at county fairs, competitions for who has grown the "best" produce, which in the case of potatoes could be the largest, the most symmetrical, those with the fewest skin blemishes, etc. One or more such potatoes would be exhibited by their grower for a judge or judges. The winning display would be the "best potato exhibit," but the award would be made on the basis of the potatoes, not of the exhibit.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    What would that be—the most elegant, creative, or pleasing manner? That would certainly be a part of it.
    in the case of potatoes could be the largest, the most symmetrical, those with the fewest skin blemishes, etc. That too.

    The winning display would be the "best potato exhibit," but the award would be made on the basis of the potatoes, not of the exhibit. But would not "the most elegant, creative, or pleasing manner" include the exhibition thereof?
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    I think that the "best potato exhibit" is neither the "<best exhibit> of a potato" nor the "exhibit of the <best potato>". Rather, it is the "best <exhibit of a potato>", i.e. the "best of the exhibited potatoes".

    That is, "best" describes neither the potato nor the exhibit, but the exhibited potato.

    Likewise, the "longest cucumber exhibit" is the "longest of the exhibited cucumbers".
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    Perhaps a little context will help [imaginary on my part, but just because I made it up doesn't mean it's not true]:)
    There is an International Potato Growers' Association.
    At their annual convention the members are treated to exhibits of all the many varieties.
    The exhibits are evaluated on these criteria: "elegance, creativity, beauty."
    This "potato exhibit" won first prize.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Many villages in the UK hold annual 'Shows' with competitions for the "Best Exhibit" from a wide number of categories either produce or skills or handicrafts. "Flowers Fruit and Vegetables" could be a typical category, with sub categories, such as potatoes, cauliflower, peas, leeks .... The people who enter the competition submit an exhibit for the category. The exhibit has to conform with the Show rules. Here are the requirements for potato exhibits in Austwick Show 2011 with the names of those exhibitors who were put in first and second places.

    4 white potatoes:1 & 2. B Procter 4 coloured potatoes: 1 & 2. B Procter A dish of 2 white & 2 coloured potatoes: 1. M Pettiford 2.B Procter 3 Onions: 1. C Vaughan-Williams 2. M Pettiford 7 Shallots: 1. B Procter 2. C Vaughan-Williams 3 carrots ..............
    http://www.austwick.org/clubs-and-a...ssociation/113-village-show-results-2011.html

    Mr Bill Proctor got the a cup/trophy for the Best Potato Exhibit, and the Preston Cup for Best in the Vegetable Section as well as another cup/trophy for most number of points in the Produce Division.

    It's possible that the cup mentioned is one of these trophy type cups, a small cheap one made perhaps from tin rather than silver or silver plated.

    The question was about best potato exhibit- I agree it means best exhibit of potatoes. In the courgette( zucchini) category the exhibit had to consist of three courgettes. This would be described as the best courgette exhibit.

    Hermione
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    Well, maybe at an American flower show, one could win a "best exhibit" award with puny flowers that had partially brown leaves with holes left by insects, on the basis of one's elegant arrangement of them.

    But, frankly, I can't imagine a contest for who can display potatoes in the most sophisticated, elegant, and esthetic manner. A "potato arranging contest"?

    No, I don't think so. In the U.S., at least, you would display your potatoes to show what a good potato farmer you were. If the potatoes were puny, poorly developed, unappetizing, and, indeed, inedible, I don't think you'd win a prize for how you arranged them on the table.

    And I don't think that at a county fair, the judges would say, "Well, Frank Farmer has the biggest, juiciest, most symmetrical potatoes in the county, but they're just lined up on the table in a row, whereas Art Iste, whose potatoes no one would buy even to process into boxed, dehydrated mashed potatoes, has arranged his in a clever multi-arm spiral, so he wins the blue ribbon." Frank would get the "best potato exhibit" award for exhibiting the best potatoes. Art would not get an award for best exhibiting his dreadful potatoes.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    If you are responding to my account of village shows, I have no idea what you are talking about. Flower 'arrangements' are a different category. This isn't for farmers, it's for keen amateur gardeners. Agricultural Shows are a different thing altogether. It has nothing whatsoever to do with terrible quality produce artistically arranged. The best exhibit in the potato category; exhibit simply means "what is shown". Who said anything about artistic arrangements of lousy produce? Why be so scathing? Village shows are absolutely wonderful events

    And on the language issue, why should it have anything to do with Indian English? It might be very odd to have a trophy from an English Village Show in an Indian kitchen, but maybe it was picked up from a British household sale after Independence, or maybe the British in the days of the Raj organised shows just like they were used to having back home, who knows what the story of this cup was. But there's nothing odd about the language of "Best Potato Exhibit".

    Hermione
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    In the U.S., I would parse it as {best potato} exhibit, that is, an exhibit of the best potato or potatoes.
    I'm intrigued that this thread's still running:D.

    Surely, Fabulist, if you parse "best potato exhibit" as {best potato} exhibit, it can only mean the exhibit of the best potato (singular). Whereas best {potato exhibit} could mean either the best exhibit of a (single) potato or the best exhibit of potatoes?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I'm intrigued that this thread's still running:D.
    "The only important thing in life is trivia."

    I could say that "potato" is here used as an uncountable noun for the class of all potatoes and acts almost as an adjective to qualify exhibit... but I won't.:D

    The point is the nature of the "exhibit" in the novel. Kiran Desai wrote it and it is clearly Hermione's Flower and Produce Show transposed from the 1920's and earlier Home Counties of England to the Heat and Dust of Desai's pre-war India and then placed at an Indian level. As such, references to and examples from America are culturally flawed.

    Loob's #2 is fine. You exhibit your potatoes (or whatever) and the best exhibit wins a small prize or rosette and that's all there is to it - no education, no propaganda, no shared knowledge, nothing for the greater good, nothing organised beyond village level. It is a social occasion and but a part of a local fete.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    OK, if the English or Indians really know of contests for who can make the "best exhibit" of potatoes, or for who can exhibit potatoes, regardless of their quality, in the most artistic, elegant, or some other manner, and trophies are awarded at these contests for the manner in which potatoes, specifically, are displayed, then "Best Potato Exhibit" = "Best Exhibit of Potatoes" or "Best {Potato Exhibit}."

    I don't think that any American farmer would enter a contest for who could arrange his potatoes in the "best" manner. An American farmer who won a "best potato exhibit" trophy would have exhibited the best potatoes in his county or state. The manner in which they had been displayed would not have been a factor in the judging.
     
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