*The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu*

That is the new and excellent book by Dan Jurafsky, due out this September, and I found it interesting throughout. Here is just one bit:

In fact, the more Yelp reviewers mention dessert, the more they like the restaurant. Reviewers who don’t mention a dessert give the restaurants an average review score of 3.6 (out of 5). But reviewers who mention a dessert in their review give a higher average review score, 3.9 out of 5. And when people do talk about dessert, the more times they mention dessert in the review, the higher the rating they give to the restaurant.

This positivity of reviews, filled with metaphors of sex and dessert, turns out to be astonishingly strong.

That is another reason not to trust customer-generated restaurant reviews.

And how exactly do Americans conceive of dessert?

Americans usually describe desserts as soft or dripping wet…US commercials emphasize tender, gooey, rich, creamy food, and associate softness and dripping sweetness with sensual hedonism and pleasure.

This association between soft, sticky things and pleasure isn’t a necessary connection. For example, Strauss found that Korean food commercials emphasize hard, textually stimulating food, using words like wulthung pwulthung hata (solid and bumpy), coalis hata (stinging, stimulating), thok ssota (stinging), and elelhata (spicy to the extent one’s nerves are numbed).

How can you resist a book with sentences such as these?

The pasta and the almond pastry traditions merged in Sicily, resulting in foods with characteristics of both.

Here is a previous MR post on Jurafsky, including a link to his blog, and concerning “Claims about potato chips.”

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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