1774: Adjective Foods

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Adjective Foods
Contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance!
Title text: Contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance!

[edit] Explanation

In this comic, Randall imagines creating food items whose labels contain only adjectives, and putting them on display in supermarkets. This is likely a jab at food market buzzwords, which usually rely on adjectives that bring up certain feelings based on how the food is "supposed to be", rather than a factual description of what the food actually is. By removing all nouns from product labels, Randall takes this trend to its extreme. The items depicted in this comic are filled with popular descriptions that make them sound appealing, but give no useful information about their contents. It is implied that some consumers who are susceptible to buzzword marketing will nevertheless purchase these products.

The adjectives seen in the comic are:

  • Premium: A generic term that indicates high quality, which can be used to describe any food. There is no objective standard for what can be labeled "premium".
  • Stone-ground: A term typically used to describe milled grain products such as flour, corn meal, or mustard. This term evokes a sense of tradition (as opposed to industrial processing), and by association, heartiness or healthiness. In reality, contents are rarely distinguishable no matter what grinding surface was used.
  • Bespoke: A word meaning "custom made to individual order", in contrast to factory mass-produced items typically found in supermarkets.  It is supposed to imply higher quality due to the producer giving it more attention. However, mass-produced items are usually ones that pass more strict quality controls, have more consistent results, and appeal more to popular tastes.
  • Cage-free: A term typically used to describe chicken.  Chickens are usually farmed in tight cages and not allowed to move freely. Ethical concerns for the chickens' welfare led to preference for better handling methods such as "cage-free" and "free range". These terms however are still often abused by farmers looking to maximize their profits, as "cage-free" can simply mean crowded in a filthy barn, and "free range" might be a tiny patch of grass which chickens are allowed to, but rarely actually, visit.
  • Gourmet: Another generic term that indicates sophisticated, fancy, or exotic properties. Any food can be labeled "gourmet" without any objective standard.
  • Fire-roasted: A method of preparation by heating food over an open flame (as opposed to an electric oven or microwave). This process typically gives the food a distinct flavor through caramelization and by absorbing the smoky flavor from the fire itself.
  • Glazed: A description indicating that the food has been coated with a thin layer of glossy liquid. This is usually done to improve the flavor and texture.
  • Flambé: A method of preparation by adding alcohol to the food and setting it on fire.  This is mainly done for dramatic presentation in a restaurant setting. The alcohol content, and the flames to a lesser extent, can give food additional flavors.
  • Organic: In the context of food, this term describes methods of production which meet certain standards for sustainability and lack of synthetic chemicals. These standards vary by country and region.  While one can support organic farming for ecological reasons, many also incorrectly associate "organic" to mean better tasting, more nutritious, or otherwise healthier. Experiments to date have found no difference in safety, nutrition, and taste between organically and conventionally produced foods.
  • All-natural: A term that generally implies that all the food's ingredients were directly sourced from domestication and farming, with no additives or alterations through modern technologies like chemical synthesis or genetic engineering. Similar to "organic", definition and enforcement of this term varies by country and region.  While it is true that food processing technologies have led to an explosion of junk food, it is not true that "natural" is necessarily always better. Many natural products can be harmful if used carelessly, and some processing methods do in fact improve the safety and nutrition of food.
  • Locally-sourced: A term indicating that the ingredients are procured and prepared in the same general geographical area where it is sold, instead of arriving by long-distance shipping or international trade. People may prefer to "buy local" due to perceived benefits to the local economy, community, and environment.
  • Artisanal: Similar to "bespoke", this is a word meaning "created by hand by a skilled craft worker". Again this is in contrast to mass-produced items in factories where most preparation is done by machines and where workers have little knowledge of the methods.
  • Kosher: A term which designates foods that may be consumed in accordance to Jewish religious dietary laws.  This is important to people who follow Jewish practices, but otherwise has little significance to non-Jewish people.
  • Grade A: In some countries and for some specific items (such as eggs in the US), the grade can carry specific meaning about the item's quality and suitability for sale and consumption. However without context for what the food is, this is nothing but another meaningless term which alludes to high quality but carries no weight.
  • Craft: A term similar to "artisanal".
  • Barrel-aged: A term typically used to describe fermented products such as alcoholic beverages, vinegar, and certain sauces. Sealing these items in wooden barrels and allowing them to age helps them to develop more complex flavors. The barrels themselves can also impart flavors to the food.
  • Smoked: A method of preparation by placing food, often meats or cheeses, in chambers filled with dense smoke. The food slowly absorbs the smoke which enhances its flavor.
  • Authentic: Typically used for foods imported from another culture, this term indicates that the ingredients, preparation, taste, etc. are true to the original, native version. It can also indicate that the ingredients are real, not substituted with similar but lower-quality alternatives. However, since there's no objective criteria for what can be called "authentic", the word has largely lost its meaning and the quality of items labeled as such still varies greatly.
  • Homemade: Another term which evokes the idea of careful preparation by hand rather than commercial mass production. People will often prefer meals prepared from scratch at home by themselves or close family members, likely because they grew up eating similar meals and have developed a fondness for its particular characteristics. However, there is no reason to believe one will enjoy food prepared in someone else's home any more than commercially produced versions.
  • Sun-dried: A term often applied to fruits and vegetables that have been dehydrated using heat from the sun, e.g. sun-dried tomatoes. As with "stone-ground", it's questionable whether the heat source in this case makes any difference to the food. Sunlight does not conceivably add any flavor to the food, so presumably any radiant heat with similar intensity will produce the same results.
  • Whole: A term applied to food that has not been broken apart into smaller pieces, e.g. whole walnuts, or food that has not been processed to remove nutritious parts, e.g. whole grains.
  • Extra sharp: Often applied to cheeses, indicating a stronger or "sharper" flavor, e.g. extra sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Low-calorie: Used to label foods that have been formulated to deliver fewer calories than a regular food. Although low-calorie foods may be helpful for dieters to control their caloric intake, they are not necessarily healthier. For example, the low-calorie formulation might have replaced fat (which has high calorie content) with added sugar (with comparatively lower calorie content per gram) and salt (to enhance flavor lost from the removal of fat).  Neither excessive sugar nor salt is healthy.
  • Lite: Similar to 'low-calorie', 'lite' is applied to foods that have fewer calories or lesser fat content than regular food. It can also apply to other contents, e.g. alcohol ("lite beer").
  • Original flavor: If a company produces many products, it will sometimes differentiate them by flavor. After many years, the first flavor that a product came in can often be preferred by customers. Companies will often capitalize on this by marketing a product as having the "original flavor", rather than one of the variants.
  • Recommended daily allowance (title text): Information often found in the nutritional information on food labels which compare the amount of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to a prescribed standard amount an average person is deemed to require in their daily diet.

The title text may be a continuation of the main joke, in that Randall has removed the noun (nutrient type) which the recommended daily allowance is supposed to measure. This leaves "100%" which gives an impression of good value, but it is useless without knowing what it describes. Alternatively, it may be suggesting facetiously that the foods contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of adjectives, given the high quantity of them in the product names. Obviously, adjectives are not a nutrient the human body needs that would normally be subject of a nutritional chart.

This joke is very similar to comic 1060, Crowdsourcing, in that Randall is doing nothing, and trying to make it look like he is doing something. It expresses the opposite idea from comic 993, Brand Identity.

[edit] Transcript

[An arrangement of labeled foodstuffs, from left to right and top to bottom:]
Premium Stone-ground Bespoke, Cage-free
Gourmet Fire-roasted Glazed flambé
Organic All-natural Locally-sourced Artisanal, Kosher, Grade A
Craft Barrel-aged Smoked Authentic Homemade Sun-dried Whole Extra Sharp
Low-calorie Lite Original Flavor
[Caption:] I'm trying to trick supermarkets into carrying my new line of adjective-only foods.

[edit] Trivia

  • The word “artisanal” was originally misspelled as “artisenal”.
    • The wrong spelling is found here.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Nobody has edited since I started this? Wow. I must have been early. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 15:23, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Nice to see somebody helping out! Thanks! That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 15:41, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

This looks just like all the food in my supermarket. I'm not even sure if I'm buying food or the best adjectives sometimes XD While most people have mass on Saturday, I have mine relative to my inertia (talk) 15:59, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

The can of Lite is a real thing, of course, and trademarked, which is why other beers can call themselves "light" but not "Lite". This article has more on that. 16:05, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Italics is totally fine, and Glazed and Lite are in white. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 16:13, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

First off, I would like to apologize, my reason for changing the text to normal could be seen as inflammatory, and that was not my intention. As for my actual reason, it's that while you may be able to read it fine, many people can't read text like that. In the comic, it's large and capital letters, but the wiki has small text. Adding all that guff makes it hard to read. For example, my mom has awful eyes, and text like that would be virtually unreadable to her. It was not for my sake, but rather for the sake of others. While most people have mass on Saturday, I have mine relative to my inertia (talk) 16:18, 19 December 2016 (UTC)
It's not hard to increase the font size on a computer -- just ctrl and + (or ctrl and =). ctrl and - to turn it back down. The transcript is mainly there for search engines anyway, I imagine; after all, the comic is directly above it on the same page. 17:29, 19 December 2016 (UTC)
it isn't hard to increase font size, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how busy the text is. There is no reason for it to have that much. It distracts from the real purpose and decreases readability. Also, they want it edited as well. Note the box above the transcript about format. This is not about you. It needs to change for other people who cannot read this stuff as well. What makes you think everyone knows how to increase font size? I honestly didn't until now. You need to do something about it, I'll do it for you, which you may not like.While most people have mass on Saturday, I have mine relative to my inertia (talk) 17:48, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Is "artisenal" even a word? Is that a purposeful misspelling of "artisanal"? (Like "lite" is a purposeful misspelling of "light".) Imperpay (talk) 16:42, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

The "artisenal" error has now been fixed in the updated comic. [1]. --Esterhazy (talk) 17:42, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

The 'p' by a "kosher mark" indicates that it is kosher for Passover. It will say 'pareve' outright if the food is pareve. --Hamotron172.68.54.28 18:24, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Who cares what foods might be in each of the packages? It has nothing to do with the comic and are generally speculation anyway. I'd disagree with most of what's written, but it doesn't matter. I would argue for removing the entire table/section. SeanAhern (talk) 18:58, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

I'd generally agree. If we are to list them, the 'sack' should probably designate it as 'Flour or meal,' as cereals are sometimes steel-cut, but not usually stone-ground, and stone-ground wheat is flour. Also, while there are lots of kosher foods here, I've never seen kosher eggs. Rule seems to be it must come from a live kosher chicken, but I think all chickens are kosher while they are alive, & 'kosher chicken' refers to the manner of their slaughter. Miamiclay (talk) 23:07, 19 December 2016 (UTC)
I don't think you are meant to be able to tell what is in the package as some of it makes no sense. Why would "cage free" be applied to flour or wheat? That is typically applied to chickens and their eggs to indicate the chicken/hen isn't trapped in a cage. But I have never heard of someone grinding a chicken. The only thing I can think of all those adjectives actually referring to would be ground up chicken such as for fertilisers. I think it is just a collection of adjectives which make no sense. 00:00, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

Hear, hear; in fact I think the explanation should note that part of the joke is that no product could be described as cage free and stone-ground. similarly, fire-roasted and flambé are inconsistent. Also, smoked, sun-dried, and barrel-aged are very nearly mutually inconsistent. 01:41, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

Disagree, fois gras could be made from cage free ducks and then ground with stone implements. 14:36, 20 December 2016 (UTC)
It could refer to some baked good that uses stone-ground flour and eggs from cage-free chickens. 17:05, 20 December 2016 (UTC)


This is the opposite of 993: Brand Identity. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"Stune-ground" might reffer to a "Ground stone" so its probably Flour. (PS hope i edit this correctly) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


The contents of the Lite can could also be soda, as it's well possible to produce a lite soda (though I don't think anyone has). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Coca Cola has a Lite variety, so it certainly could be. 14:10, 20 December 2016 (UTC)
Original flavor

'Original flavor' actually isn't a noun phrase (in context). It's an adjectival phrase, which is why Randall has used it as he has. I'd suggest deleting this sentence in the explanation. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


The link in the trivia section seems to point to the current comic image, not the older version.---- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Is it just me or is "original flavor" not an adjective? It seems to act as a noun, "flavor", being modified by an adjective "original", not as a phrase. 21:18, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

It's hard to read it as a noun phrase in context. In another context it could be, for example if a soda-can were a likely container for flavoring. Here it reads most naturally as an adjectival phrase: imagine 'Original flavor Coca Cola'. 05:47, 23 December 2016 (UTC)Adam

Randall has been partially successful. I can walk into my local grocery and purchase packages of "loaf" and "spread", and bottles of "drink" These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk)


At first glance not all of these adjective orderings look natural. Has anyone checked? Opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. tbc (talk) 15:09, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Personal tools


It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal?