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A few years ago, there was an ad campaign for an ice cream bar that was now
supposedly better than ever because of its “25 percent thicker
chocolatey shell.” Note the misdirection, worthy of a master
magician: a thicker shell, yes! We all love chocolate, and now we’re
going to get more of it—except, hey, wait a second:
“chocolatey”? Who added that y on the end?
The Food and Drug Administration’s longtime definition of chocolate
says it must contain cocoa butter. In 2007, chocolate fanatics got wind of
a 35-page petition to the FDA that would allow food purveyors to substitute
vegetable oil for cocoa butter, allowing them to save big bucks and still
call it chocolate. This infuriated the connoisseurs, who don’t want
chocolate degraded so that a bunch of fat cats can get richer.
Besides, unlike cocoa butter, vegetable oil raises cholesterol levels, and
true chocolate doesn’t contain trans fats, which have been linked to
infertility, heart disease, and colon cancer.
The ice cream bar tycoons are saving so much by using lower-cost
ingredients that they can easily afford to give us 25 percent
more—but more what? Cheap, fake chocolate, which probably
means we get 25 percent less ice cream in the bargain. How long before they
take it to the next step: a “chocolatey, ice creamy” bar to die
The company and its ad agency figure that many of us don’t see the
slightest difference between chocolate and chocolatey.
As for those of us who do notice it, the hope is that we’ll take chocolatey to mean “abundant with,” “full
of,” or “characterized by” chocolate. Many words take on
this meaning when we add a y: A chilly evening is
abundant with chill. A sandy beach is full of sand. A thrifty man is characterized by his frugality.
But in other cases, tacking on that y conveys “evocative
of” or “having some of the same qualities as.” We add it
to a word to make a vivid metaphorical connection. Whereas an evening is
described as “chilly” when there’s literally a chill in
the air, she gave him a chilly look has nothing to do with weather
conditions. A “juicy” novel doesn’t mean the pages are
wet. No one expects you to launch into “The Girl from Ipanema”
because you’re wearing a “jazzy” outfit.
And that’s the sordid secret of chocolatey. By adding that
little y, the ice cream bar moguls have found a way to disguise
their cynical cost-cutting schemes, expecting the consumer to read it as
“abundant with chocolate,” instead of the other interpretation:
“kind of like chocolate.”
The late, great comedian George Carlin summed it up nicely:
“Y’know what ‘rich chocolatey flavor’
means? No [bleepin’] chocolate.”
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