GrammarBlog

Monday, 22 October 2007

Quandary: New, Improved Recipe

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I was party to an interesting conversation the other day. Actually it wasn't that interesting as I recall but, since I'm about to blog about it, I'm going pretend it was. To be fair the conversation did raise an interesting question. I shall paint you a picture:

Imagine, if you will, that I am a purveyor of tasty snacks. Tasty as they are, I decide to improve the recipe with which my snacks are created. When I sit down to design the packaging I decide to put the phrase "NEW, IMPROVED RECIPE!" all over it.

Aside from the glaring error of using capitalised type, I find myself with another quandary: can my recipe be both new and improved at the same time?

I've seen this quite a lot on packaging; I suspect we all have. On the one hand I can see that the recipe is a new recipe, it improves on the old, thus it is a "new, improved recipe". Equally if the recipe is new it replaces the old recipe and therefore isn't improving anything, except perhaps sales figures for my ludicrously tasty snack.

Help me, if you can, to quell my quandary.

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8 Comments:
Blogger Blue said...

I have seen this phrase many times and have thought the same as you, but I can see your arguments.

22 October 2007 at 17:00  
Blogger Dan said...

It's an interesting one alright. Do you think 'New AND Improved' would work better?

I'm going to write a longer entry about the language of public transport at some point, as I have a tenuously similar problem with the phrase 'personal belongings' as heard when alighting a train (de-training for our American friends).

Are not belongings by their very nature 'personal'? Should it not be 'personal items' or merely 'your belongings'?

Nice to see you back Paul, by the way.

23 October 2007 at 08:59  
Blogger Gez said...

I think 'new AND improved' would be worse. It's either new, or it's improved. I suppose the correct phrase would be 'newly improved'.

23 October 2007 at 09:23  
Blogger JD said...

I have an issue with 'new product launches' – after all, if a product is just being launched, it's fair to assume it's new. Unless it's just improved, of course.

Seriously, I suppose 'new and improved' means 'it's a new recipe which is also an improvement on the old recipe' – after all, just because it's new doesn't automatically mean it's better than the thing it's replacing.

23 October 2007 at 09:24  
Blogger Paul said...

I would agree, jd, except for the fact that by definition 'new' means that it can't be related to the 'old'. If it is related it's just improved.

What I think we're seeing here is the persistence of brand (or product) meeting the implementation and causing this semantic issue; my product is 'the same', hence improved, but the means used to arrive at the end product are, in some sense, new.

23 October 2007 at 13:40  
Blogger Tom said...

'New product launches'; I'm ok with this. You have a new product, and then you launch it.

23 October 2007 at 13:41  
Blogger JD said...

Yes, 'new product launch' isn't a contradiction, but it is often a tautology. In other words, it is difficult to have an 'old product launch'. Anyway, sorry to sidetrack!

If I take one thing and change it slightly, do I have a new thing or a modified version of the old thing? When does something become 'new'? How different does it have to be to become 'new' as opposed to 'improved'?

On another note: if Mars introduced a totally new recipe for Snickers bars, for example, you would have a new recipe but not a totally new product (the recipe is only one element of the product - others being the name, packaging, brand image, price etc). So in that sense Snickers would be both 'new and improved'.

OK, this is tenuous... and yes I have just gone to press so have time to witter...

23 October 2007 at 16:23  
Blogger JD said...

Ah, just a thought. Is it OK to say "my new boss is an improvement on my old boss"? If so, I guess my boss is both "new and an improvement" - as close as I can get!

23 October 2007 at 16:28  

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