Friday, October 18, 2013

An assortment in advance

I was assigned the task today of acquiring a batch of donuts for my group at work. At the donut place I told the girl I wanted a dozen, and she said I could choose the ones I wanted, or alternatively, they had boxes of preassorted donuts.

The pre- part is clear. Why not preselected? When I roll that one around in my mind, it gives the feeling of deliberateness to the selection process. Do they mean that there's some randomness in their assortment? Too bad I didn't have the presence of mind to ask how their preassorting process works.

They are not alone in using the term. I found about 500 legitimate hits on Google. As I look through the listings, I'm not sure I can detect a definitive pattern. Here are some examples:
... and more.

I actually have access to a kind of subject-matter expert; my daughter works at a store that sells chocolates. I asked her whether they sell "preassorted" collections. No, she said; they use the terms pre-packed or just assorted. Both of which make sense to me.

So I'm still a little unclear on what preassorted conveys that preselected doesn't. Any ideas?


Jonathon Owen said...

I'd guess it's just a conflation of assorted with presorted or preselected.

Or maybe it just contrasts with plain assorted—a box of assorted donuts is one you put together yourself, while a box of preassorted donuts is one that the employees put together.

Alon said...

“Assorted” conveys diversity (≠ unmixed, homogeneous). “Preselected” conveys ready-madeness (≠ DIY). “Preassorted” conveys both.

Dale Thistlethwaite said...

I've never seen the term "preassorted" here in Australia, but "select, selected and selection" do often have a specific meaning in relation to chocolates here which may explain it. Selection implies a logic or likeness, so you have the "milk selection" "caramel selection" "nut selection" which are all boxes of chocolates with some base attribute in common. So maybe preassorted simply implies that the choice is truly random?

Dale Thistlethwaite said...

I've never come across the term "preassorted" here in Australia, however there is a specificity of the terms select, selection and selected which may explain its use. Selection (in relation to cakes, chocolates etc.) implies a logic - so you have the "milk selection" "fudge selection" or "nut selection" - the rest of the attributes of the chocolates in these boxes are random but they all have in common that one quality - so it is a random group formed out of a subset. Perhaps preassorted simply means the choice is totally random.