Why Do We Call Good Food 'Orgasmic'?

September 16, 2014 1:17 PM

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The following is an excerpt from The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, in which author Dan Jurafsky analyzes user-generated restaurant reviews to draw conclusions about the language -- positive or negative -- that we use to talk about food: You can always get a good argument going in San Francisco by asking people for their favorite taqueria. I lean toward the carnitas at La Taqueria on Mission, but our friend Calvin can be pretty eloquent on the subject of the al pastor at Taqueria Vallarta on Twenty-Fourth. San Franciscans are similarly contentious about the best dim sum, and have been politely disagreeing about tamales since the 1880s, when the city was famous for the vendors plying the streets every evening with pails of hot chicken tamales. (Some things, of course, are simply not a matter of opinion, like the best place for roast duck -- it’s Cheung Hing out in the Sunset, but don’t tell anybody else, the line is already too long.)

It’s not just San Francisco. You can’t go on the Internet these days without stumbling over someone’s lengthy review of a restaurant, wine, beer, book, movie, or brand of dental floss. We are a nation of opinion-holders. Perhaps we always have been: in De Tocqueville's prophetic study of the America...

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