The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu by Dan Jurafsky - review by Raymond Sokolov

Raymond Sokolov

Linguine Franca

The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu


W W Norton 246pp £17.99

Dan Jurafsky is not the kind of linguist I encountered as a classics graduate student fifty years ago. He will not bend your ear about the connection between the sigmatic aorists of Old Irish and Attic Greek. He isn’t an evangelist for Noam Chomsky’s algorithmic theory of grammar either. Jurafsky is a behavioural linguist, gifted at explaining how words intersect with human life and history. And in this charming and informative book, he shows how looking at food through language can tell us a lot about everyday eating and cooking.

This may sound like linguistics-lite. After all, anyone who dined out in fancy American restaurants fifty years ago will remember how French words popped up pretentiously in the middle of menus. But when Jurafsky quotes from such macaronic bills of fare, you can be sure that the ‘eggs au beurre

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