Friday, April 17, 2015

Artisan, no

I saw the insert in today’s paper: “Seasoned. Seared. Served. New Artisan Grilled Chicken.” From McDonald’s!

The word artisan denotes “a worker in a skilled trade, a craftsperson; (in later use) esp. one utilizing traditional or non-mechanized methods”. The word artisanal first applied to workers and ways of working: “of, relating to, or characteristic of an artisan or skilled craftsperson; involving or utilizing traditional, small-scale, or non-mechanized methods or techniques.” The word later came to describe things: “of a product: handmade (esp. with care and skill) using traditional techniques; having qualities associated with small-scale, pre-industrial production.” From The New York Times (October 9, 1983): “Raymond Séguy’s earthy, artisanal, sourdough baguette, made according to old-fashioned rules and standards, takes seven hours to prepare.”

Nothing about the name McDonald’s suggests non-mechanized, small-scale, or pre-industrial food preparation. The only traditional methods in play here are those of fast food. Did McDonald’s choose artisan thinking that artisanal would be too risky, leaving the company open to accusations of false advertising? Because what does Artisan Grilled Chicken mean anyway? Perhaps the sandwich is designed to satisfy hungry artisans breaking for lunch.

One sure thing: indiscriminate and cynical use has made artisan and artisanal into worsened words.

[Definitions and citation from the Oxford English Dictionary.]

comments: 3

Anonymous said...

Marketing has adopted the game plan of political slogans. When one has a phrase short enough to be remembered, it is the creation of marketing that these few words seem to say something, while saying little or nothing. Think about all recent political campaigns, and then with that same perspective think about marketing for products. You've placed one below in your blog: "Dewar's profile." It is not a profile of Dewar's after all. And the last slogan, "on the rocks, after the music stops" could be a slogan for the ship which capsized off the Italian coast, couldn't it? My favorite: "New and improved" which is the product version of "campaign finance reform," both slogans heard by me for the last sixty years, repeated as if they mean what they say but never do. There must be a marketing version of that Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator, which you also mention. Perhaps an artisanal version of refrigerator magnet poetry? Reinvent. Think different. Change we can believe in. Just do it. We try harder. Always. I'm lovin' it. The power to surprise. The happiest place on earth. Yes we can. The pause that refreshes. In your heart you know he's right. A global force for good. It's the real thing. Forward. Where's the beef? You're in good hands.

Slywy said...

Real estate names crack me up, things like "Elkwood Estates," where there have never been elk, the only wood comes from newly planted nursery saplings, and "estate" means a teeny plot with a McMansion plopped awkwardly on it.

Anonymous said...

Consider: elk would estates,
if only they really could.
McMansion is elks' kind of place;
it's such a happy hood.