Godiva’ s new ad campaign, as seen on a poster in a Metro station:
A woman in a slinky dress kneels on the floor next to an enormous chocolate box. She’s tearing the ribbon off to get to the chocolates, which are at least the size of her head. Tagline: “Let the decadence begin.”
Now, BusinessWeek apparently has a problem with this slogan because Godiva isn’t decadent enough for them. But linguaphiles should point out another problem: the word itself.
“Decadence” comes from the same root word as “decay.” It means “a period of decline, downfall.” “Decadent,” a back-formation from decadence, is “marked by decline or decay.” The etymology is right there in your face.
In modern usage, the word “decadent” can be applied to self-indulgent pleasures (“this cake is so decadent”) but that definition is listed third on Merriam-Webster. I don’t hear the “decay” in most sentences using “decadence” or “decadent,” but this ad just seems to bring out the rot. There’s something sinister about the way the woman tears into the chocolate box (shades of Turkish Delight?), and of course, everyone knows that chocolate makes your teeth decay. It’s as if the ad is inviting the comparison between chocolate (not, on the whole, a bad food item) and this unwholesome rot. In this context, I get an extremely visceral reaction from this word and this ad.
Time to go buy some Cadbury…