Fifteen Forbidden Food Cliché Words

1. Delicious

2. Delectable

3. Succulent

4. Sumptuous

5. Scrumptious

6. Mouth-Watering

7. Piping Hot

8. Grilled To Perfection (Anything “To Perfection”)

9. Treat Your Tastebuds

10. Taste Sensation/Celebration/Explosion

11. Golden-Brown/Tender-Flaky

12. Yum(my)

13. Palate-Pleasing

14. Luscious

15. Like Grandma/Mom/Other Fictional Female Relative Used To Make

(sigh)

Hype. Inaccuracy. Mindless repetition of phrases thought up by people who died before we were born. Practically every food advertisement, every menu is guilty. And the problem with sounding like everybody else is, you sound like everybody else. And people stop listening, or don’t believe you. That leaves you no chance of distinguishing yourself, other than by word of (watering) mouth.

How does one inspire something as complicated as appetite, as unpredictable as a hankering? By deciding what you want your readers or listeners to conclude, and then finding simple, descriptive, non-clichéd language to convey your meaning. Dare to be interesting.

And stop using (at least) those fifteen clichés.

 

3 comments

    1. Thanks for asking—my wife was making me defend this just two nights ago. My point is that these words short-circuit a writer’s push to describe something with words that really conjure up the food. They fool a writer into thinking he connected, and described something for his readers, when he actually hasn’t yet. So use whatever words best describe how the food is made or where it’s sourced or the specific ingredient that makes it different or interesting: anything that effectively engages the reader or listener’s imagination. My whole observation is nothing more, basically, than noting that almost all food writers settle for calling a rich, buttery sauce “sumptuous” and moving onto their next to-do item. And the first writer to employ “sumptuous” really connected, probably. It does describe a rich sauce or thick milk shake or expensive, tender, generously cut meat portion really accurately; unfortunately it’s just so common that people don’t really hear it. My wife was pushing back and saying that shrimp really are “succulent,” soft but with that little texture where you bite through but there’s just that tiny bit of resistance (that’s my interpretation of her mimicking a bite of shrimp and making an “onk” sound effect). And yes—when you really make me think about what “succulent” is getting at, it makes me imagine a really memorable experience, the biting of a fresh boiled shrimp. But when restaurants overuse these words they lose their power to evoke that fresh, boiled, still-steaming shrimp memory. That’s the sad thing about cliches. They used to be great.

      1. Very descriptive answer, and I guess I can’t say, “mouth watering.” Because, to say that saliva is flowing just sounds too yucky. I hear a lot of, “mouth feel” being used, but I suppose we need to explain precisely the individual “texture” with words that are not necessarily in our vocabulary.

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