If you live in Canada, you’re probably hearing the word crave more often these days. If it’s not the new President’s Choice slogan Crave more, it’s Bell’s Crave TV.

These examples show how the word is evolving in divergent directions: as a reasoned choice that covers healthy food with the President’s Choice or as an uncontrollable response with Bell.

Gut reaction

Crave has been typically used to describe an urgent, visceral desire, such as a pregnant woman’s craving for pickles or my recent craving for shortbread cookies. People also say they crave, or deeply desire, attention from a loved one, a hot beach in frigid winter or steamy sex. Increasingly, they use crave to describe the incessant pull of addictions, such as a craving for sugar, cigarettes or cocaine.

That’s what I found when I looked up crave in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. However, this compilation of how and how often words are used in media, academia and other places goes up to only 2012. So allow me to speculate on the short-term linguistic evolution of crave based on these two campaigns.

While the President’s Choice campaign embraces the food tie-in, it goes further to suggest that craving applies to “the new, the next, and the never been done.”

logo-pc-crave-more_enToo much elasticity?

That’s stretching it. Even though I want them, I wouldn’t say that I crave new shoes, a spring vacation or cars that fly above clogged expressways.

Springier still, the web copy continues: “We crave exotic tastes and local sources. More yum and less sodium.”

No. Although I regularly enjoy kimchi and kale, which I grow in my backyard, I don’t crave them the same way I do Reese’s peanut butter cups.

What’s more, I don’t crave less sodium, even though I try to consume less salt. Nutritionists encourage us to fight our cravings for salty and sweet. Opting for less is a rational choice, not a craving.

President’s Choice is not the only company trying to extend the definition of craving from visceral reactions to wise choices. A web search revealed many health food producers and restaurants that use crave in their name or slogan. It’s a trend.

Shut up, I get it

Because they were twisting the meaning of crave, the President’s Choice marketing strategists had to use words to explain. In contrast, the folks at CraveTV assume we know. They let images from their most popular programming demonstrate the urgent, visceral interpretation of the word.

crave tv logoTheir web copy is based primarily on program lists and price, with the kicker: Get ready to say “Just one more episode.” Just like beer or cookies.

Although I was not at their analytic-bejewelled table, I’ll bet they were inspired by all the talk about Internet addiction and Netflix’ use of bingeing, which demonstrates how television viewing behaviour has evolved from one show at one fixed time, to watch when you want, to keep watching till you pass out.

Language evolves

Although the definition of crave may be hip hopping this year, it has never stood still.  Almost nobody uses the Germanic-rooted, Middle English sense of “This problem craves (has a right to demand) a solution.” In recent years, more people have described addictions and other gut-driven behaviour as cravings.

Both President’s Choice and Bell have the budgets to research and test every word they use. They did not choose crave lightly.

But by bouncing a word off growing usage rather than trying to stretch the meaning themselves, I predict the binge-watching sense of crave will flourish, while the healthy foodie stretch will wane. Then again, language can evolve in unexpected ways.

Crave: a word to watch this year.

Any others that have caught your attention?

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Crave: a word I’m watching in 2015
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2 thoughts on “Crave: a word I’m watching in 2015

  • January 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Barb, I agree that “crave” in relation to trying to eat healthy foods just does not work. Nice try, though. Like you, I expect the binge-watching sense to flourish.

  • January 7, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks, Sue. As a fellow word nerd, what are you watching?

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