In 2015, an article in the Atlantic considered the ways in which algorithmic analyses can incorporate prejudices and other forms of statistical skew. Lauren Kirchner’s piece was entitled “When Discrimination is Baked Into Algorithms.”
Computer science has made peace with this use of the verb to bake for a quite a while now, and desirable features of your smartphone are baked into the gizmo’s hard drive and apps.
Cybernetic baking is hardly the only kind. A more recent piece by Shane Goldmacher in The New York Times concerning hidden fees in the real-estate industry goes on to summarize its findings: “All that spending has been baked into the title insurance rates that New Yorkers seldom scrutinize in the stressful rush to complete a closing.”
Those who have been obsessively concerned with The Great British Bake-Off (was Mary always perfect? was Paul a bit of a bully? is it always summer in England?) may wonder about this use of the term baked.
Of course, when time’s up in the competition tent, the dwindling number of contestants present their bakes, as Paul says. Bake is a noun when it isn’t a verb.
The Oxford English Dictionary reports that to be baked has meant, among other things, to be intoxicated, at least in Australia, at least from around 1910, with the usage migrating to North America in later years.
For those of the baby-boomer generation and later, baked has meant to be high not on alcohol but weed. Should you be in need of such things, the Internet Movie Database offers both a selection of films in which characters are, or seek to become, baked, as well as a list of “best movies to watch baked,” beginning perhaps inevitably with 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One might, of course, be fried on drugs or alcohol, or simply from overwork. “My brains are fried [though apparently not baked] after three weeks of prepping for the organic chemistry final.”
Foodies and healthologists will opine concerning the turn to producing chips and such without full immersion in fat (“They’re baked, not fried!” seems to be the moral high ground of the snack-food aisle), as if the large economy-size bag of baked chips was the equivalent of a tray of carrot sticks.
Academe, too, has turned to baking.
One might hear of a cost or a requirement as being baked into a tuition bill or a syllabus, a language choice suggesting that whatever is included is not naturally part of its new host material but is now irrevocably blended with it.
If we use the term, are we naturalizing fusions that, with more time for reflection, we might resist?
Perhaps this language trend will pass, as will my fantasy of producing a tray of Prue’s Iced Ginger Biscuits or Steven’s Chocolate and Ginger Sfogliatelle. Them’s some bakes. You weren’t expecting a link to recipes in a language column, but even academics have to eat.