Grrr...this went to a "log in" page, so I copied it.
NY Times November 7, 2007
Tonight, Patronizing Language. Enjoy.
By FRANK BRUNI
DINING out nightly has taught me many things, including this: Nothing kills enjoyment like too many mentions of it.
A triptych of canapÃ©s arrives, and Iâ€™m told that proceeding from left to right is the best way â€œto enjoy them,â€ a statement that blurs the line between helpful instruction and boastful prediction. Iâ€™ll be the judge of my own joy, and maybe Iâ€™ll proceed from right to left, just to mix things up.
I pause halfway through an entree, and a server with an itch to clear plates asks if Iâ€™m â€œdone enjoying that,â€ a question thatâ€™s more a presumption. Maybe I was done enjoying it after the first bite. Maybe the unconsumed half is a testament to my limited enjoyment.
Would I â€œenjoy coffee with dessert?â€ I donâ€™t know; it depends how good the coffee is. Iâ€™ll have some, yes, then weâ€™ll see.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Egads. Itâ€™s a semantic pox, either getting worse by the moment or simply less bearable upon the thousandth exposure to it. And itâ€™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.
Itâ€™s a language whose syntax and idioms Iâ€™m still learning. It makes sense but not really, removed from normal conversation by just enough degrees to seem like caricature and to invite snide responses, or at least snarky thoughts.
It traffics in off-kilter pronouns, on display when a server asks: â€œHow are we enjoying things so far?â€
Well, we didnâ€™t know you were dining with us. And we hadnâ€™t come to a group verdict, but weâ€™ll appoint a table foreman, deliberate and get back to you.
Restaurantspeak combines these off-kilter pronouns with phrasing that lands in some gray zone between literal and figurative, and hovers there awkwardly.
â€œDo we have any food allergies at the table?â€ a server asks.
We sure do, over here, in this petri dish. Should we give it to you, or to the host, or should we just trot into the kitchen and hand it directly to the chef?
Restaurantspeak dusts off hoary courtesies, as when a server asks if â€œthe madam would enjoy a glass of white wine with her branzino.â€ That always sets my neck to swiveling. Did Sydney Biddle Barrows sit down and join us? And isnâ€™t she a cabernet girl?
And then thereâ€™s the phrase uttered a dozen, two dozen, three dozen times during the course of a meal in many an upscale restaurant, the phrase that attends every glass removal, every crumb sweep, every delivery of more butter, every pour of more wine.
â€œPardon my reach,â€ says the waiter or the waitress, when a simple â€œexcuse meâ€ would do. What Iâ€™m pardoning â€” and itâ€™s really and truly no imposition, no big deal â€” is a forearm, an elbow, not a wingspan, not a reach.
Restaurantspeak is patronizing.
â€œExcellent choice,â€ says the waiter in one restaurant, casting my companionâ€™s order of braised short ribs as a bold inspiration.
â€œPerfect,â€ says the waitress in another restaurant, and she says it after each personâ€™s selection of an appetizer and entree, as if weâ€™ve managed to home in on the only out-and-out winners in a tough crowd.
If weâ€™d chosen differently, would she have made an icky expression, a sourpuss face? Would she have warned us that the squab tartare with candied jalapeÃ±os and a botulism emulsion was imperfect â€” and possibly ruinous?
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.
â€œWhile the steam is rising,â€ he said, â€œyou can enjoy the aroma.â€
Or I can wait until tomorrow for my facial, and get it in an honest-to-goodness spa. That I might enjoy.