As I stood at the kitchen sink yesterday evening, my eyes were roaming in the hope of finding something more entertaining and interesting to occupy them than the washing up in my hands. They settled upon an empty cereal box that my housemate had left on the windowsill, ready to be taken down to the recycling bins. Specifically, a box of Nestlé's Raisin Oats & More. (I'm keen to point out that this is my housemate's cereal, as I don't buy Nestlé.) I was struck by the marketing blurb that covers roughly a third of the front box, in purple letters:
Crispy moreish wheat and oat flakes covered in baby oats with oat clusters and deliciously tasty raisins
Wait a minute! Did I just read something being described as 'deliciously tasty' there? Blinking to ensure that my eyes were not deceiving me or somehow malfunctioning owing to an excess of washing up liquid in the sink, I read it again. Yes, it really did say 'deliciously tasty raisins'. Now, I have no objections to positive descriptions of raisins, I really rather like them, as I do grapes and wine, but I do object to such redundant language. The last that I knew, tasty
meant that something had a pleasant flavour; delicious
meant that something had a highly pleasing taste. In which case, the marketing executives employed by Nestlé have been paid what was no doubt a princely sum to tell me — and any other poor souls whose eyes happen to fall upon the purple abomination that is the packaging of Raisin Oats & More — that the raisins in this cereal are tastily tasty
. They are, in fact, so tasty that one adjective is insufficient to describe the flavour sensation that they will bring to your tongue; this adjective has to be qualified by an adverb!
Without even drying my hands I sat down at the kitchen table to examine yet further this statement extolling the deliciousness of a cereal and enticing me to eat it.
'Crispy moreish wheat and oat flakes...' Try saying that aloud. Go on. Don't you think that it sounds a bit silly? Okay, maybe you don't, but you have to admit that a comma does need to be inserted between crispy and moreish. And even then, I think that it still sounds silly. These wheat and oat flakes, which are covered in baby oats let us not forget, are special to the extent that they warrant two adjectives to describe them. Or perhaps they require bolstering against the superiority of the tastily tasty raisins? It wouldn't be done for the flakes to feel inferior now, would it? They might go limp.
But if these lush descriptions of modified cereal grains and dehydrated grapes weren't enough, no fewer than five different typefaces have been applied to these seventeen words, including, help us all, blockcapitals. (These raisins really are very special if their existence has to be bellowed at us.) Clearly this breakfast foodstuff is so radically appealing that the excessive use of adjectives cannot do it justice alone and a profusion of typefaces will aid the consumer in appreciating the unique amalgamation of oats, wheat, some more oats, a few raisins, and even more oats for good measure. Or maybe the marketing executives couldn't decide how to market it and concluded that throwing superfluous adjectives and a distracting number of typefaces at the front of the box was the solution?
Take a closer look at the box and you will find another two statements describing the cereal it contains. I'm fairly convinced that my theory of the marketing executives not being able to settle on a strategy is borne out by:
Irresistibly crispy flakes coated in baby oats with crunchy clusters and deliciously juicy raisins.
Toasted oat and wheat flakes, covered in oat pieces with added raisins
Well would you believe it, the first statement tells the consumer
practically nothing about the cereal except that its vaguely specified constituent elements are wonderful. Irresistibly crispy flakes of what, precisely? Can the 'crunchy cluster' be defined? Whilst the second statement — found on the top flap of the box beneath the best before date
— actually describes the contents of the box. You know, it's that second statement that contains the information that I want to know, along with the nutritional information panel on the side of the box. Even if the marketing strategy hadn't failed so utterly miserably to tempt me into trying this adjectivally explosive cereal, its proliferation of oats and 9.7g of sugar per measly 30g (that's about an ounce) serving in no way inspires me to pluck it from the supermarket
shelves and shovel it into my mouth in a bleary-eyed haze every morning.
No thank you. I shall stick with my Waitrose honey nut corn flakes: 'golden crisp flakes of corn with peanuts and honey.' And even that needs a comma.
creases recommends that you try saying 'moreish wheat' ten times fast. It comes out as something, ehm, unusual.