or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Advertising has thrown some hideous neologisms at us over the years, but for me, this one takes the cake.

The government, bless its good intentions, is trying to protect consumers from the depredations of advertisers, so it puts stern restrictions on how a word can be used in food packaging. You can't say that something is vanilla if it doesn't contain any true vanilla; if it's entirely artificially flavoured, which is pretty likely these days, you have to note that fact on the label. Chocolate is trickier; if, say, ice cream or pudding, something completely suffused with the flavour, is not real but artificial, you can just footnote that with an asterisk, but if it contains pieces of putative chocolate, what to do?

"Chocolatey" is a valid adjective in English. It ought to mean "having the qualities of chocolate", but in the hands of advertisers, it's come to mean something else: "not really chocolate, but with at least some of the superficial characteristics of chocolate, and we're hoping you can't tell the difference."

The feds have decreed that chocolate has to be chocolate, which is to say that it has to have cocoa butter in it. If the cocoa butter has been removed and replaced with some other kind of fat, rendering it inferior and a little disgusting, it can't be called chocolate any more, so the manufacturers instead use their ugly little dodge, as you can see here:

and here:

"Milk Chocolatey Flake".

Here's what the ingredient list for that product tells us about the chocolatey flake:


In all fairness, you can't put chunks of chocolate into ice cream (or into cereal that will be doused with cold milk), because the cold chocolate would be hard, brittle, and almost flavourless. You need something that quickly makes the transition from icy to creamy-smooth at body temperature, and that something is coconut oil. But the result is slick and mouth-coating and fairly unpleasant: it certainly isn't chocolate. I would say that the proper thing to do would be to not put pieces of chocolate into ice cream, but apparently the public has spoken, and they'll settle for an icky mouthfeel as long as they can get triple chocolate chocolate chunk ice cream.

And--the point of this ranting--"creme" isn't cream. We used to know what "cream" meant, and it had more than one meaning, too. It didn't have to be cream per se; it could be something with a smooth, creamy texture, as in buttercream icing or pastry cream, neither of which contains any actual cream. But at some point the government said, "It will mislead consumers if you put the word 'cream' on the label when there isn't any cream in the product," and the manufacturers said, "Fine. All right. We'll call it something else." And that something was "creme", which looks simultaneously pretentious and slumming, a neat trick for a word to pull.

And now, predictably, "creamy" has been adulterated and bastardized into "cremey", as hideous a word as I've seen in some time.


That last package up there is from The Onion AV Club's review of a couple of banana-flavoured snack foods. If you're wondering where "banana" comes from, it shouldn't take more than, oh, two seconds' thought to decide (based mostly on the general flow of the word) that it must be from an African language, and that turns out to be the case. However, nobody knows which one: there are a lot of them!


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