Every once in a while, a member of the Park Slope Food Coop snaps a picture of a few paragraphs in the print edition of the internally-circulated Linewaiters' Gazette, and posts it on social media as a public service.

There was the episode with the food coop's official obituary writer, and the police blotter-esque account of the organic grocery thieves. Today, we bring you a debate that's been knocking around in the paper's Letters To the Editor section since December: What if coop members were required to refer to each other as comrades? How about 'phrens'? More importantly: are they trolling us?

Coop member Mike Epstein posted the latest installment of this debate on Instagram today, from the February 16th issue. It begins, in the left column, with 'GREETINGS PHRENS':

The thing about the @foodcoop newsletter is you can never quite tell if the letters are satire or serious.

A post shared by Mike E (@satanslaundromat) on

"I would like to take issue with Benedicte Charpentie's suggestion that we replace the gender-normative addresses 'sir' and 'ma'am' with the allegedly Marxist term 'comrade,'" writes member Robert Berkman. "Anybody who is even casually conversant with Karl Marx's writings would know that he specifically rejected the use of 'comrade' to refer to fellow members of the impending socialist revolution."

Berkman goes on to reference a Marx "text" that is titled something along the lines of "The Secrets Is For Me Not Vegetables," according to our cursory Google Translate research. Things devolve from there. As our tipster noted, the German quote "appears to be a parody of funny german words, like Lederhosen and Hauptbahnhof (central train station)." Not, as Berkman suggests, "a clear preference for non-gender hierarchal forms of addressing one's peers."

Berkman's alternative pronoun suggestion is "phren," because, of course, it "bears some homophonic similarities to 'friend,' but shortens it to maintain an aura of unfamiliarity, while leaving open the possibility of future comradery."

Taking things back a few steps, the whole debate originated in another letter Berkman sent to the editor in the December 22nd issue, in which he expressed displeasure at being called "sir" by another coop member (he had apparently complained to that member about a stack of cream cheese containers that were "filled less than halfway.")

"This policy of addressing outwardly male Coop members as 'sir' is an issue that I intend to bring up at a future General Meeting, by the way," he noted ominously.

Charpentie responded in the next issue: "Lets declare, as a policy, that from now on all Coop members will address each other as 'Comrade,'" she said. "It is completely gender neutral, and would also give a romantic whiff of Marxism to any interaction." And... here we are, back at "phrens."

We couldn't immediately reach Berkman or Charpentier on Friday, so we can't confirm where any of these letters land on the serious/satire spectrum. That said, multiple Coop members assured us that the debate has not been raging in the aisles.

"I think it's just a back-and-forth in the letter section," said a woman who answered the Coop general line on Friday, but declined to give her name. "A lot happens in the Linewaiters' Gazette that doesn't come to anything."

The woman agreed to connect us with General Manager Joseph Holtz, who had even less patience. "I think our members are thinking about this close to zero," he told Gothamist. "And if you want to know how much I'm thinking about it, it's even closer to zero. It just doesn't grab me as being very important to the stewardship of the food coop." Okay phrendo.

We'll update if we hear back from Berkman. In the meantime, the joke's probably on us.

Update: Berkman confirmed that he was trolling. "I'm a Coop crank," he said. "I've been there for almost 30 years and I'll do whatever I can to make myself a pain in the ass."