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What Are You Really Talking About?

According to Yelp, good eating is mostly about sex and drugs

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration Claire Eckstrom

factAny restaurant manager worth his reservation book knows that Yelp reviews are more about the people who write them than they are about the food. But recently, a few scientists from Stanford and Carnegie Mellon endeavored to figure out exactly what that meant, using linguistic analysis on almost 888,000 Yelp reviews on 6,548 different restaurants. According to their recent paper in the journal First Monday, positive reviews of inexpensive restaurants contained a disproportionate amount of drug-related words, like “jonesing,” “binge” and “drug of choice.” Reviews of expensive restaurants, meanwhile, included more complex words, and more sensual and even sexual terms, like “lust,” “sultry” and “pornographic.” The researchers believe this can partly be explained by the fact that tasty inexpensive food tends to be sugary, fatty or otherwise bad for you, while consumers of expensive food like to portray themselves as sensual gourmands. As for what you should say if your dinner guest brings this up at the table, we suggest, “So, how ’bout them Bears?”

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