Lies, Damned Lies, and Advertising

Words can be slippery customers: They have both denotations (literal or primary meanings, often more than one) and connotations (feelings or ideas that they suggest). It’s the connotations that trip us up (or down, usually): Words that seem to be similar can have subtle shades of meaning that make them less than fully equivalent. Walk with me as I explore one word. And for goodness sake, watch your feet.

dine (verb)

eat dinner.
“we dined at a restaurant”
have dinner
have supper

eat, consume
feast, banquet
take, partake of
nosh, sup
tuck into, devour, scoff

“Why are we here?” you might also wonder. Because this past week a fast-food company offered me the opportunity to dine with another for $11.98.



I cannot say it was a lie. It’s a big world, full of wonders, and it might be possible for two people to dine, somewhere, for $11.98 (plus taxes). But in this establishment, although it is possible to eat, consume, partake, and scoff/scarf it is not possible even to tuck into, which implies altogether more enthusiasm than is either likely or appropriate. And it certainly is not possible to dine.

I say this with confidence, even though I myself never dine. I do, for goodness sake, know what the word means.

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9 Responses to Lies, Damned Lies, and Advertising

  1. My mother-in-law, who was the food columnist for the Des Moines Register for decades, is the only person I have known who regularly and frequently used the word “dine.” She had attended sumptuous banquets staged annually by a college for chefs and had occasion to use all of the other terms for eating you mention. “Dine” carried those connotations you distinguish, but she elevated certain meals, including some she prepared and served herself, by using “dine.” By the same token, I have used the word in a faintly ironic mode, when referring to the habitually “late” suppertime of some households. Since you raise the question, I cannot recall when I last used the word “dine” in a conversation or in my writing although I clearly recall the last occasion in the Before Times when I might have said, “We dined . . . .” Perhaps the word will resurface when diners return to the outside world?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Food columnists seem like trained and qualified users of “dine.” I had never thought about it before seeing this coupon book. It raises an interesting distinction between words we know and see as commonplace, and words we use. However we speak of it, let us all look forward to being able to do it again.

  2. says:

    Interesting, Isabel.
    Traditionally, and usually, to dine refers to eating the last meal of the day.

    I see there’s another meaning entirely: to regularly entertain friends with (a humorous story or interesting piece of information). e.g. “he has been able to dine out on that story for the last 26 years.”

    So…I guess…dine on! And then enjoy a postprandial time!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Excellent point. Yes, I might have used “dine” in that sense where I wouldn’t use it for eating a regular dinner.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – is it possible that you can only “dine” with someone who is not yet your partner in any formal way? Put another way, once you have a partner, is “dining” a thing of the past? Just asking for a friend. 🙂

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – I’d say that’s consistent with my connotations for dining. There’s a degree of formality not easily retained within a modern household. Downtown Abbey might have been different.

  4. Ken from Kenora says:

    Isabel, there’s a level of society left out of your missive. The ‘dine and dash’ crowd, many of them are in a hurry to get to the gas bar so that they can steal there also.

  5. Pingback: To Eat, Perchance to Dine | Traditional Iconoclast

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