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The Language of Food

A Linguist Reads the Menu


Dan Jurafsky (Author)

Our Retail Price:£11.99

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Stanford University linguist and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky dives into the hidden history of food.

Ketchup began as a fermented fish sauce from China’s Fujian province: ke for fermented fish, tchup for sauce. The British were the first to add tomatoes to their anchovy “catsup” in 1817. A century later, Heinz changed the spelling again—and added sugar.

In The Language of Food, Dan Jurafsky opens a panoramic window onto everything from the modern descendants of ancient recipes to the hidden persuasion in restaurant reviews. Combining history with linguistic analysis, Jurafsky uncovers a global atlas of premodern culinary influence: why we toast to good health at dinner and eat toast for breakfast and why the Chinese don’t have a word for "dessert". Engaging and eclectic, Jurafsky’s study reveals how everything from medieval meal order to modern menu design informs the way we drink and dine today. Tuck in!


“His [Jurafsky's] decoding of food-related texts is the most original aspect of a work that is entertaining and revealing throughout.” — The Economist

“...hugely entertaining book...” — The Independent

“Deliciously erudite.” — Nature

“This book won’t put dinner on the table, but it just might improve how you order in a restaurant.” — Tony Turnbull, Christmas Round-ups 2014, The Times

“I found The Language of Food eye-opening, insightful and huge fun to read, with surprises and treats on every page.” — Bee Wilson

“What [Dan Jurafsky] doesn't know about the etymology of food and catering is not worth knowing...[his] deconstruction of a an object lesson in food PR.” — The Independent


Shortlisted — James Beard Foundation Book Award, 2015