Our study uses the language of food to examine the representation of socioeconomic class identity in contemporary America by comparing the advertising language on expensive bags of potato chips with that on inexpensive chips. We find that the language on expensive chip bags indeed emphasizes factors that are more representative of higher socioeconomic status, such as more complex language and more claims about health. We also find support for Pierre Bourdieu's hypothesis that taste is fundamentally negative: descriptions on expensive chips, unlike on inexpensive chips, are full of comparison (“less fat,” “finest potatoes”) and negation (“not,” “never”'), suggesting a goal of distancing the upper classes from the tastes of lower socioeconomic classes. Finally, our results expand the relationship between authenticity and socioeconomic status. Previous scholars suggest that the desire for authenticity is solely linked with upper-class identity; we find, however, two distinct modes of authenticity. For the upper classes, authentic food is natural: not processed or artificial. For the working class, by contrast, authentic food is traditional: rooted in family recipes and located in the American landscape. Thus, the authentic experience is linguistically relevant for both classes—an example of the rich meanings hidden in the language of food.
- © 2012 The Regents of the University of California. All Rights Reserved.