Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms
Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms is based on a survey of thirtythree popular and scholarly books, most of them dictionaries, that identify, and in many cases discuss, the literal language of cooking and eating food. Only three of the books focus exclusively on the language of food, however; and only one of these, which is not a dictionary, deals extensively with the nonliteral language. These books are The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, The Food Lover’s Companion (also a dictionary), and The Philology of Taste: The Wayward Language of Food (a book-length essay).
What is the difference between literal and nonliteral language? Literal language means what it says: A roast is a roast. Nonliteral language means something other than what it says: A nonliteral roast is a toast turned upside down—a friendly putdown of a famous person at a banquet in his/her honor. The guest of honor is roasted by his/her friends as if he/she were being turned on a spit over an open fire. The roast ends when the subject is done to a turn. (“Stick a fork in him and see if he’s done.”)
Nonliteral language includes both figurative and nonfigurative terms. All metaphors, such as jellyfish, are figurative, as are all similes, such as like trying to nail jelly to a wall, and all proverbs, such as It must be jelly, ‘cause jam don’t shake like that. Together, these terms are known as “metaphorical language.” In contrast, idioms, cliche´s, and slang terms and expressions can be either figurative or nonfigurative. Together they are usually known as “idiomatic language.”
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