As anyone who has crunched into an exceptional French fry knows, salty can be very, very good. Closely tied with sugar as the preferred American spice, it coaxes us to eat chips, pretzels and nuts – and then demands that we eat even more, until we scrape the bottom of the bag.
On a practical, helpful level, salt also helps us make our meat kosher; it preserves foods and keeps them fresh.
Yet if you describe someone as salty? It’s someone who is not in the best of moods. A sailor with salty language is not speaking eloquently; a salty person is one who is upset over minor nuisances. And in the Chumash, when Lot’s wife turns into a salty pillar, it is decidedly not a good thing. Nor is the heavily salted Yam HaMelech of Israel, which in English is called the Dead Sea, since it’s saltiness prevents life.
This one simple word contains multitudes and reminds us that even something as ordinary as salt is never as simple as we think it is.