POVs, FBTs and other produce synonyms

01/06/2014 11:16:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstI saw an item today in The Guardian online about the overzealous use of synonyms by writers to avoid repetition in their copy. The piece, called “Popular orange vegetables and silly synonyms” states that one writer for The Guardian tried to use “popular orange vegetable” as a synonym for carrots before it was flagged by an editor.

Why would writers resort to such obtuse language when confusion could result? After all, isn’t the sweet potato orange as well and popular in its own right?

As it turns out, the POV (popular orange vegetable) has a place in the publication’s style guide, representing all misguided attempts at variation and creativity.

From the story:

"The Guardian style guide describes Povs as “laboured attempts to produce synonyms by writers seeking what [HW] Fowler called ‘elegant variation’ … often descending into cliche or absurdity”.

That makes me wonder what turns of phrase writers here at The Packer have used as a synonym for a commodity instead of the simple commodity name.

From a story by Craig Moyle in 1997:

"The fuzzy, brown torpedo with the black, white and green interior could possibly be nature’s equivalent of the multi-vitamin, said Curtis Granger, director of marketing for the California Kiwifruit Commission, West Sacramento."

Yes, we are talking kiwifruit, the FBT (fuzzy, brown, torpedo).

From August 2012, Amelia Freidline called durian the “stinky fruit” to the objection of no one. No embellishment here; the durian is simply and irrefutably “the” stinky fruit.

 More than one writer, myself included,  has called avocado a “pebbly” fruit. Also, the avocado has been tagged as “pebbly oblong thing” and called by its old nickname “alligator pear.”

To the credit of our editors, I don’t see too many “laboured" attempts to produce synonyms by writers that actually made it into the paper.

 Commodity promotion boards and produce marketers are not sinless in this regard.

"Superfood" has been a common synonym for blueberries and growing crowd of fruits and veggies.

Consider onions, “your allium vegetable of choice.” from World Healthiest Foods.   


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