I love the culinary

First of all I love the culinary.

Here an Indonesian IELTS candidate has made a positive claim about a place he or she likes, and is supporting that claim with another positive comment about the food there. This candidate perhaps feels that food is not a particularly ‘high-band’ word, and is experimenting with a more sophisticated synonym.

Indonesian flag The word culinary has been imported from English into Indonesian, but it has changed slightly in the process. Whereas in Indonesian kuliner can be used either as an adjective or a noun, the English culinary can only be used as an adjective. And so straight away the candidate has produced a word form error.

If you want a high-band synonym for ‘food’, you might try:

  • First of all I love the cuisine.

But be careful! Cuisine (a word borrowed from French!) is used in English to refer to the kind of food preparation you might expect in an expensive restaurant, or the kind of cooking that wins prizes in competitions. On the other hand if you’re talking about the kind of food that ordinary people eat in a particular country, day-to-day, then you’re talking about their food:

  • First of all I love the food.

So what have we learned?

  1. Words borrowed from other languages can change in several ways:
  • form : culinarykuliner
  • meaning : special food only – all food
  • grammar : adjective – adj/noun
  1. Using synonyms in an attempt to appear more sophisticated can get you into trouble. Only do it if you’re confident that you have chosen a synonym that carries the right meaning and fits grammatically into a phrase or sentence.

2 comments on “I love the culinary

  • Interesting you suggest a word borrowed from another language yourself: “cuisine” is French and simply means “kitchen”/”Dapur” so would you say: “First of all I love the kitchen”?

    Reply
    • mm

      Interesting. If you’re saying that an English native speaker who is studying French might misuse the word ‘cuisine’ since it is borrowed from French? Well it’s quite possible! In French, ‘cuisine’ – as you say – means ‘kitchen’, but it can also mean ‘cooking’, whereas in English it usually only means ‘quality cooking’ (not ‘kitchen’). I suppose an English native speaker might say “J’aime la cuisine.” in a context when it would be more appropriate to say “J’aime cuisiner..”! We would need to consult a French language teacher and ask about English students studying French!

      Reply

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