The Alexandrian

Orange Juice with Juicy BitsSo, as most of you know, I’ve been working as the line developer on Modiphius Entertainment’s Infinity roleplaying game. Although I live in the middle of America, Modiphius is based out of London. I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to my time zones, my culture, and even my writing style. (You may have noticed a few UK spellings of words back-creeping onto the Alexandrian.) But if you’re going to do an honourable (ah, there it is) job of it, that’s just what you have to do.

But I’ve also been working with other American freelancers, and I’ve noticed that some of them struggle with the British-isms more than others. Everybody knows you say “flat” instead of “apartment” and you use “lift” instead of “elevator”, but there are more esoteric examples, too. For example, if you’ve ever been to the UK you may have noticed that many of the orange juice containers there are labeled as containing “Juicy Bits”. Most Americans assume that this is just another cultural synonym and buy the orange juice thinking that it’s going to contain what we call “pulp”.

This, however, is just a common misunderstanding.

The “juicy bits” in this case actually refers to the pornographic pictures or text which are sold with the orange juice. This is kind of a weird tradition in England, but it dates back to the 19th century when Queen Victoria signed a law outlawing the sale of pornographic material. However, there was a loophole in the law which allowed the pornography to be given away for free. As a result, the street pornographers would essentially “disguise” themselves as orange sellers: You would buy an orange and they would wrap it for you with “free” pornographic content.

(It’s possible they got the idea from the French, who would wrap croissants with poetry. See Cyrano de Bergerac for a depiction of this practice.)

Eventually the laws were changed, of course, but by that point the whole orange-and-pornography thing had become traditional. This included wrapping glass bottles of orange juice with pornographic labels: As you drank the juice away, the pornographic images would slowly be revealed. A “moral outrage” in the mid-20th century caused the orange juice companies to temporarily eliminate the “juicy bits” OJ containers, but there was a backlash and so they reached a new compromise: They print the “juicy bits” inside the container.

Most people don’t bother of course, but next time you finish off a “juicy bits” container of OJ in the UK, cut it open and enjoy!

(One last thing: A few years ago there was a bit of a scandal because one of the OJ manufacturers thought they could get away without actually printing the “juicy bits” inside. It was never clear if it was a manufacturing mistake or if they were just trying to save money on the assumption that nobody really looked any more. In any case, there was a big kerfluffle about it. So if you cut open your container and there isn’t a “juicy bit” in there, make sure you call the company: They’ll have to provide with a free replacement.)

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11 Responses to “Thought of the Day – The Juicy Bits”

  1. John R. says:

    Nice piece of history, thanks for sharing Justin. What a fool I’ve been throwing away orange juice containers without stopping to look inside!

  2. Hearthrow says:

    I was so enamoured by the idea of pornographic images inside Orange Juice containers, that I had completely forgot what day it was for moment. Well done!

  3. Picador says:

    I have many fond memories of my semester abroad in Paris, unwrapping my morning croissant on a park bench and reading excerpts from Baudelaire on the wrapper before heading off to class. I believe that this tradition is the origin not only of the little-known English “juicy bits” used to wrap oranges, but also the American tradition of selling chewing gum wrapped in comic strips. Each nation thus seems to express its national character in both the choice of food and the choice of wrapper.

  4. Alsadius says:

    That’s a nice devious one. Well played.

  5. d47 says:

    Haven’t you been cutting open your US OJ containers? They’re filled with great stories about barbarians on mars and sorcerers in airships or sometimes adventuring investigators who always get the girl if not always the loot.

  6. Kannik says:

    Oh, nicely done! Perfectly written to make it all sound so plausible… :)

  7. Martin says:

    Well done! Now I’m sad it’s not really a thing. It just sounds so weirdly plausible. 😀

  8. Anonymous says:

    Holy crap!!! I forwarded this to a LOT of people on whatsapp before I realized I’ve been played. I hate you!!! 😀

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    As an English person, this highly confused me when reading this on April 2nd!

    A very well constructed piece, the lead in really sold it.

  10. Yahzi says:

    As an Australian, I know enough about English culture to absolutely have fallen for this, hook, line, and sinker. I mean, page 2 girls, right? It’s exactly the kind of thing POMs would do.

  11. Jack V says:

    I’m confused because I was sure it WASN’T labelled juicy bits a few years ago, but now I’m not sure if that was right or I just never noticed.

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