November 10, 2007


Frank Bruni complains about the patronizing (and formulaic) language often used by waiters:

DINING out nightly has taught me many things, including this: Nothing kills enjoyment like too many mentions of it. A triptych of canap├ęs arrives, and I’m told that proceeding from left to right is the best way “to enjoy them,” a statement that blurs the line between helpful instruction and boastful prediction.... Would I “enjoy coffee with dessert?” I don’t know; it depends how good the coffee is. I’ll have some, yes, then we’ll see.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Egads. It’s a semantic pox, either getting worse by the moment or simply less bearable upon the thousandth exposure to it. And it’s a fine example of restaurantspeak, an oddly stilted language that has somehow survived the shift toward casual dining and that sounds even odder and more stilted in light of the new informality. [...]

Restaurantspeak is patronizing. “Excellent choice,” says the waiter in one restaurant, casting my companion’s order of braised short ribs as a bold inspiration. “Perfect,” says the waitress in another restaurant, and she says it after each person’s selection of an appetizer and entree, as if we’ve managed to home in on the only out-and-out winners in a tough crowd. [...]

I wonder, and I wonder if a waiter who served me recently at an haute Chinese restaurant is paid by the joyful syllable. There was no end to what he wanted me and my companions to enjoy: the fried lobster, the braised pork belly, hot air. In regard to the last, he admonished us for recoiling from a bamboo steamer that was cooking baby vegetables in front of us.

“While the steam is rising,” he said, “you can enjoy the aroma.” Or I can wait until tomorrow for my facial, and get it in an honest-to-goodness spa. That I might enjoy.

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