About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    « D’Hominem Attack | Main | The Most Sublime Speech This Year »

    Candid Corn

    The name ‘corn sugar’ more accurately reflects the source of the food (corn), identifies the basic nature of the food (a sugar), and discloses the food’s function (a sweetener). 

    Petition by the Corn Refiners Association to the FDA

    Euphemism (YOO-fuh-mism), putting lipstick on a rhetorical pig. From Latin, euphemismus, and the Greek, euphemizein, meaning “to speak good.”

    The corn industry wants us to forget the term “high fructose corn syrup.” After all, it’s just sugar.   The cornies’ attempt to rename their problem illustrates the fundamental flaw of a euphemistic label: if the product’s ethos is out of whack, changing its name may not fix it.

    Congress heavily subsidizes corn, making it a cheap source of sugar, making it the sweetener of choice for soft-drink makers, making it a leading source of obesity. The average American glugged 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup last year. The statistic alarms the cornbuskers. A decade ago we were gobbling more than 45 pounds.

    Euphemistic relabeling does work occasionally. Sales of eurcic acid rapeseed oil took off after getting renamed “canola oil” in 1988.  On the other hand, more recently the prune growers failed to get us to call the fruit “dried plums.”

    Want to improve high fructose corn syrup’s reputation? Stop subsidizing corn. Stop drinking sodas. Stop getting fat. It’s very conservative of Figaro to say that, though the Sweet Tea Party may not think so.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (14)

    Love putting lipstick on a rhetorical pig! Isn't that what gilding the lily used to be?
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Fine
    Yes, in a sense. Shakespeare originally meant a different sense when he coined the term, though. In "King John," a character complains of John's second coronation, calling the double throning "wasteful and ridiculous excess." Getting two coronations is "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,/ To throw a perfume on the violet..."
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    What figure of speech is putting lipstick on a pig?
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSam
    It's an idiom.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Slate, by the way, traces the origin of the expression to a radio host in 1985. Obama made it famous during his campaign.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    The corn industry isn't quite right when they call high fructose corn syrup "just sugar." "Sugar" is a generic term for a range of chemicals. Corn syrup in its pure state is glucose. The industry uses enzymes to convert a portion of that glucose into fructose. The syrup in our soft drinks is 55% fructose, 45% glucose.

    The stuff we know as "sugar" is sucrose from beets and sugar cane. Sucrose consists of chemically bonded glucose and fructose. Does that make sucrose the same as corn syrup? Not really. High fructose corn syrup is the result of a factory process using enzymes that in turn come from other factory processes. Some critics say that all this processing fundamentally changes the nature of the sweetener, potentially leading to obesity and even brain diseases. (The AMA says it doubts these claims.)

    In short, is high fructose corn syrup "just" sugar? That depends on whether you think sugar is just sugar.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Segash
    Thanks for that superb explication, John. It's interesting that millions should be spent convincing Americans that something is "just sugar" in the first place. Since when did we starting thinking that sugar is good for us?
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Well, we couldn't live without sugars. Swilling them in soft drinks, though--that we can live without. Love your blog, Fig!
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Segash
    Rows (of corn) by any other name would taste as sweet.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Watson
    Didn't you write in your book that "candid" comes from the Latin for "sugar"? Is that why you used it in the title of this post?
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo
    "Candy" and "candid" (as well as "candidate") do come from the same Latin root, Eduardo; though I'd forgotten that when I wrote the title.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Sugar does make a better tasting soda. Whenever I see an imported Coca-cola from, say, Mexico, I buy it. I consider it a treat, not a daily drink.
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Sugar does make a better tasting soda. Whenever I see an imported Coca-cola from, say, Mexico, I buy it. I consider it a treat, not a daily drink.http://www.sunglassescool.com
    November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReplica watch
    Euphemism is one way not to hurt people big time. Well, it makes sense after all. Tactfulness is something we should all practice to avoid misunderstanding and wars.

    Steve Kerr
    November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Kerr

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.