Adjective foods

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "Contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance!"

See "Modification as social anxiety", 5/16/2004.

And also


  1. Guy said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

    Which of those past participles are properly considered to be deverbal adjectives? Discuss.

  2. JP said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

  3. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 12:47 pm

    The comic originally had "artisenal," but it has since been fixed.

  4. Mara K said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

    Doesn't there have to be something in those boxes and bags? And for truth in advertising to be satisfied, don't all the adjectives on a package have to describe its contents to some degree?

  5. unekdoud said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

    @Mara K: Some (perhaps all) of the adjectives could apply to the boxes themselves, or even to the air in them.

    But suppose I printed "Bacon seeds, 0 grams" on the bottom of each package. Could I then argue that those claims were vacuously true?

  6. Anthony Schmidt said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

    Where is "small batch" ?!

  7. Cervantes said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

    "Homemade" is interesting when you find it on restaurant menus.

  8. Weltanschauung said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 3:36 pm

    Grade, calorie, and flavor are nouns heading noun phrases that are used attributively. Premium and gourmet are likewise arguably nouns, though used attributively more often than not.

    So I want the title to be "Attributive foods".

  9. Keith Rhodes said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

    My own bugbear is when the term "custom" is used to describe an article that was not made to a specific customer's specifications.

    This method of labelling foodstuffs is nothing other than a straight appeal to emotion, to a feeling of buying something exclusive or rare, and thus boosting the idea of self-worth, rather than extolling the quality of the product in and of itself.

    I wonder if he didn't slip in a few nouns just to see if we were paying attention…

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

    I'm not sure if this is responsive to Keith Rhodes' bugbear or not, but if I saw "custom" in a restaurant-menu context I might take it to mean "our supplier does this particular thing exclusively for us; it isn't something every other restaurant in town could get from the same wholesaler if they wanted to," rather than object that it wasn't "custom" at the next stage of the restaurant selling it in turn to me. Whether the particular thing being "custom" at that earlier stage was praiseworthy versus merely affected would depend on context.

  11. B said,

    December 19, 2016 @ 7:27 pm

    Interesting, cockroach clusters? I'm fairly certain that's a sweet in Harry Potter.

  12. maidhc said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 2:43 am

    I observe that use in advertising can strip all the meaning out of a word, leaving just filler with a faint scent of emotion. For example, I would say that "hearty" really doesn't mean anything any more.

    In this example some of the words tend toward this category while others retain meaning.


    premium bespoke (shouldn't be used for an OtS product anyway)
    gourmet all-natural locally-sourced artisanal craft authentic
    home-made low-calorie lite


    stone-ground cage-free (but this term is very loosely regulated)
    fire-roasted glazed flambé organic kosher grade-A (depends what it is)
    barrel-aged smoked sun-dried whole extra-sharp (assuming there is a medium-sharp) original flavor

    With words like these you could file a consumer complaint if the product was not as advertised. Like Cervantes, I'm not sure about "home-made". Does it have to be made in someone's home? For most food products it would not be legal to sell anything home-made because it was not produced in an inspected facility. On a restaurant menu I suppose it means "this is something one normally buys ready-made, but we make ours right here in the kitchen", like "home-made ketchup".

  13. Robert T McQuaid said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 5:06 am

    XKCD is pointing out a serious problem with today's shopping. The adjective clusters on packaging reduce the generic product name to the fine print. This can lead to purchasing the wrong product when a popular brand name gets put on a new product category.

  14. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 6:35 am

    Shouldn't "curated" be in there somewhere?

  15. Terry Hunt said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 10:04 am

    @ Cervantes
    "Homemade" is interesting when you find it on restaurant menus.

    This actually came up at what used to be my local pub (The Jolly Farmer in Winchester) about 30 years ago.

    In the context of UK Trading Standards regulations, the term "home-made" can apply to dishes prepared from their basic ingredients on the premises.

    The pub included on its menu "home-made pizzas", which were indeed prepared from scratch in its kitchen. It happened that the regular cook had to be absent for a few weeks and no-one else was up to making the pizzas, so the landlord secured a ready-made supply and altered the menus accordingly. Unfortunately, out of a couple of dozen menus, he missed a few: Trading Standards happened to make an inspection, spotted one of the uncorrected menus and levied a substantial fine.

  16. Terry Hunt said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 10:13 am

    I should add that pubs in the UK are in a special class. As "Public Houses", they are legally private premises to which the public are invited at the sole discretion of the landlord, who can also refuse admission to any individual without having to give a reason (although excluding people by a class, such as colour, race or religion, would be illegal). Moreover, many pubs include living accommodation in which the landlord or other staff do actually live.

  17. Robert Coren said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 10:23 am

    On French menus, what English calls "home-made" appears as fait(e) à la maison = "made in the house". (A small café somewhere in the Dordogne valley that I visited some years ago, whose menu included a number of quite amusing attempts at English translation, rendered the above as "house maid".)

  18. Theophylact said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 10:25 am

    "House-made" has supplanted "homemade" on the menus of fancier US restaurants.

  19. Julian Hook said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

    Not more than an hour or two after seeing this cartoon, I ate in a restaurant where the server informed me that I could fill out an online survey and get "a free shareable".

  20. philip said,

    December 20, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

    'new-improved' is common. I mean, not even 'newly-improved'.

  21. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 12:59 am

    A restaurant in Joplin, Missouri, offers "ho-made" dishes (no, not ho as in "prostitute").

  22. guilty bystander said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 7:01 am

    My favorite packaging adjective is "Professional". In these parts it's slapped on things like toothpaste and toilet paper. Being a mere amateur at both activities I leave those products to the specialists.

  23. mark dowson said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 7:54 am

    I've seen "hausgemacht" on German menus, for example to indicate that their egg noodles are made from scratch on the premises, not bought in.

    On packaged food products, "homestyle" is legitimate and common.

  24. Ray said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 8:53 am

    here in philly there's a bespoke men's shop with a sidewalk sign that says: WE DON'T SELL SUITS. WE MAKE THEM.

    which gave me pause. but yeah, what's being sold is not so much the product but the process.

  25. wtsparrow said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

    What? No gluten-free? I recently purchased some gluten-free underarm deodorant. No sense risking celiac disease in the armpits.

    [(myl) For nearly a year my to-blog list has included a note about the gluten-free shampoo I bought last winter:


  26. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

    This was quoted at alt.usage.english from a restaurant review:

    "Of course Roka Akor is offering a cocktail omakase. How has no one
    else done this yet? The idea combines every buzzy concept available to San Francisco dining establishments: curated, bespoke, narrative-driven…."

    (Omakase is a sequence of sushi dishes chosen by the chef.)

    So how can it be both curated and bespoke? The bartender decides somehow what sequence of cocktails is perfect for you?

  27. Brett said,

    December 21, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: Since "bespoke" is not native to American English, its use in American contexts ends up being exceedingly confused.

  28. Allan from Nevada, Iowa said,

    December 27, 2016 @ 9:47 pm

    "Bespoke" is not in my American English native vocabulary, but I first came across the term from an American writer, one from my own hometown even, Neal Stephenson. And more American writers are using the term now, but only referring to software, not to softwear.

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