Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Word Tidbits: Do You Want Your Cake to be Moist?

I thought I’d do a little exploration of synonyms and how words convey different meanings. This all started with a rant about the word “moist” and my feeling that it ought not to be applied to food. I was brought up short by the question of what word could possibly be placed on cake mix boxes and food commercials that would give the same sense as “moist” without the dirt-and-worms connotations it carries for me.

Though I did not have a ready answer, I turned to my trusty thesaurus, hoping for a little enlightenment. Words like “damp”, “dank”, and “wet” certainly would not work as appetizing food descriptions. Who wants to be told that the muffins you spent so long baking were “soggy” or, worse yet, “tacky”?

Similarly, “muggy”, “humid”, and “sodden” don’t really convey the texture desirable in such baked goods. While “rich”, “creamy”, and “buttery” give favorable impressions they don’t precisely address the moisture content of a dessert. The visual often used in commercials of sticking the crumbs together with a fork implies just what we want—delicious, soft, tasty, somewhat gooey without being sloppy or undercooked and crumbly without being dry—but what word can carry quite that much freight?

And so, my dear readers, I turn to you. Can you think of a word that does what “moist” intends when applied to describing food? I’m open to suggestions but if you must resort to inventing a word, try to avoid overly-cute or obviously made-up terms like “pudding-y”. Think of this as a freelance PR assignment: Betty Crocker commissioned you to find a new word for the millions of boxed cake mixes the company ships every year. Give me your best shot!