As food and wine writers, we are rarely far from the abundance of the furtive fruitbowl of a country we are so fortunate to inhabit, but one thing we always could use more of is good adjectives. I favour ‘gorgeous’ and ‘delicious’ (sorry) when I like something while Tony Harper and ‘terrific’ have become quite the item. One former colleague found use for the word ‘redolent’ on an unnaturally regular basis (read every review) and as this is a post and not a novel, we’ll skip the discussion on wine descriptors, although it might be fun to inject a few funky palates, forest floors, sweaty pits and voluptuous fragrant cherry notes into restaurant reviewing.
George Orwell wrote six rules for ‘clear prose':
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive when you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Harsh as Orwell may sound, it would be nice to think that our articles never suffered from pretention, ponse or palaver but the reality is we all get set in our ways. RASS (recurrent adjective selection syndrome) as well as MF (metaphor fatigue) and HPO (hackneyed phrase overload) occur all too often and it might just be time for a change. Was it Oprah or Dr Phil who said ‘you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge’? Who cares.
Here are the top ten words and phrases that should never, ever appear in food and wine writing again.
1. Washed down with a cheeky drop of…anything – think about the mental image that statement conjours up…
2. A sumptuous repast – this is the fallback of a deeply pretentious git.
3. The Lady in Red/green/puse/puke…..no one cares what colour her dress is – they’re not dining with her.
4. He/she who must be obeyed – how then did you choose from the menu? Or did he/she do that? And exactly who is the reviewer?
5. I don’t like eggplant/biscuits/coriander – again, no one cares. You don’t like?? Suck it up, readers want to know about the dish not whether you burned your tongue on eggplant/biscuits/coriander when you were five.
6. Nosh, noshery or eatery – real reviews talk specifics – ‘noshing up in an awesome eatery’ doesn’t exactly enlighten the reader.
7. Amazing! – slung around like balsamic in a bistro, this is one tired adjective and you’ll hear it used to describe everything from ice cream to the mood of a dog, brussel sprouts, a 3-year-old’s painting, and a cup of tea. The problem is ‘amazing’ is personal and the current gross overuse makes it the new nice, fine or good….shame…..
8. Dreamy, drool-making, salivating at the thought, licking my chops – that’s all a bit gross, unless you are a K9, in which case it’s fine.
9. Cacophony – the dictionary says this means harsh or discordant sounds in literary composition – so how exactly does that relate to a ‘cheeky’ shiraz or an overloaded bowl of salad?
10. Pipi du chat – or for that matter, anything written in a foreign language when the publication is in English.
We will never get it 100% right and I’m sure you can add 10 more, so feel free. At The Foodzine in 2013, we hereby promise to abide by the advice of a very respected writer……Mr Hemingway…