Translation – any ideas?!

Posted by Fuchsia on October 11, 2013

A friend of mine who is a big cheese in Chinese food circles (or should we say ‘a big tofu’ in these parts?) has asked me for ideas in translating his Chinese term shi xue 食学 (literally ‘Food Studies’). He is proposing that there should be an academic discipline of this name on with the same status as subjects like chemistry, geography and history. It will encompass ecology; food production from farm to plate (including agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, foraging…); cookery; gastronomy; the aesthetics of food; the biological process of eating from mastication through digestion to excretion; food law; nutrition; diet-related diseases; famine and other food disasters; anthropology of food; food education; and so on.

We discussed the literal translation ‘Food Studies’, but he doesn’t think it sounds weighty enough, and would like a snappy one-word term, perhaps a new one. we talked about Foodology and Eatology – but they sound too frivolous. Gastronomy seems focused too much on the pleasures of eating. Gastrography? Is their an existing term that I’m missing that would be more suitable?

Anyway, if there are any imaginative linguists out there who have bright ideas, please let me know and I will pass them on!

Thanks in advance for any inspirations.

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24 Comments to Translation – any ideas?!

James Glucksman
11 October 2013

Why not “gastrology”?

John O'Leary
11 October 2013

Well ‘nutrimentography’ is perhaps an awkward mix of Latin and Greek, but ‘nutrimentus’ has the meaning of ‘nourishment’ rather than just ‘food’, so perhaps would suit as a term for the wider science. Of course ‘victography’ is another Latin-Greek mix, from ‘victus’ – food – from which we get ‘victuals’ of course.

What I like about ‘nutrimentography’ is that people can guess what it means. The Greek words for food don’t give a non-Greek speaker a hint as to the meaning.

John O'Leary
11 October 2013

Or ‘nutrimentology’ or ‘victology’ of course.

11 October 2013

If you Google “gastrography” you will find it’s already taken – similarly “garstology” seems to be a synonym for gastroenterology.

“Food Studies” does it for me. But what do I know? My field of study was “international relations”, not exactly the catchiest (or most descriptive) of names.

11 October 2013

Culinary Arts?

11 October 2013

I think Bromatology is the nearest we have in English, but it does sound awfully like something that would be administered in Tea at a young offenders institute. So I’m going to post what a friend of mine suggested “I don’t think there is a good word that encompasses all of the fields that are proposed (Science, History, Economics, Art, Biology, Anthropology – of food), so maybe the solution is to adopt a word that nobody (English speaking) understands and then educate the masses to give a meaning to the word. shi xue seems appropriate.”
Which, although quite a Douglas Adams kind of solution, does kind of work :)

11 October 2013

But the meaning of 食學 does not encompass all the sugggested domains either… some food for thought
I believe there’s quite a few academic Food Studies program nowadays, and what they cover just differs from institutions to institutions.

12 October 2013

Was about to say same as Ault on gastrology, already taken by field of medicine.

Do like Bromatology, as an existing word. Most names for disciplines of study don’t describe the full nature of what is included in study, so I don’t think that’s a problem.

I also like the simplicity of Food Studies. When trying to represent a broad base of areas, I think a simpler term is actually better in many ways…

15 October 2013

Not a direct translation, but how about “food culture”? With the word “culture” attached, the term “food culture” is all encompassing and takes in all the possible meanings of 食学. Going from “food culture” to Chinese, 食文化 (shi wen hua) might even be at least as appropriate as 食学.

17 October 2013

I can’t see why your friend can’t just use the Chinese term of “shi xue”. It is in the true sense ~ the art of eating. How refreshing it would be to hear something other than English from the lips of food enthusiasts all over! Much like when everyone was talking about “umami”.

20 October 2013

Gastroverse? or Gastroversity to represent the entirety of sub-courses?

David Ockey
23 October 2013

How about comestibology? From comestibles. Victuology? Hmmm, don’t like the sound of that one.

23 October 2013

Along with Kavey I like the simplicity of Food Studies, which is vague/broad enough to encompass the culture of its consumption, its preparation and processing, the cultivation, husbandry, gathering of its raw materials. Food Science or Food Culture would not be broad enough. Of course, Food Studies would step on the ‘toes’ of the academic disciplines of Food Science, Agriculture (in a big way), Biochemistry, Ecology, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, and Engineering! The pot of academic politics might boil over.

27 October 2013

Foodways is established in the discipline of folklore, but it doesn’t encompass the scientific study of food. I agree with Ault on “food studies”–you don’t need A Latin name to have gravitas. To me, “shi xue” implies the study only of Chinese food. If your friend is looking for a term that embraces everything about food everywhere, food studies is it!

Wu Zhuiqiu
1 November 2013

It sounds like a combination of the existing disciplines of food science, human nutrition, and dietetics, all augmented with agricultural science, ecology, history, and anthropology, etc.

Given that broad scope, yet its core similarity to existing disciplines, plain English such as “food studies” might be better.

Moreover, one might add a third word to reflect his augmentation of the discipline of food science, or his integration of multiple disciplines, yielding something like “integrated food studies” or “comprehensive food studies”.

Also, there’s really no need for one-word pomposity. If anything, it might tend to raise suspicions and obscure the program from common searches.

Indeed, who else would be familiar with the one-word term, especially among: potential faculty and students; existing boards and publishers of academic journals; and experts in the respective disciplines with which his would overlap?

7 November 2013

I agree with the thought that it’s a combination of a series of complicated human activities,causing it difficult to give a proper definition.Personally,I prefer to create,or in other words,introduce, that “shi xue” into English.

7 November 2013

Would ‘Nutritional Sciences’ work?

15 November 2013
At NYU we call it Food Studies.

Benjamin Creutzfeldt
15 November 2013

Perhaps “New Gastronomy” could be used to imply the expanded scope of food studies. But plain “food studies” doesn’t sound so bad to me. The Peruvians have been including courses on “agroindustry” into their gastronomy studies for some time, and Gaston Acurio has been instrumental in leading this charge which has put Peru on the culinary world map. But they still call it Gastronomy…

15 November 2013

The difficulting in translating the term is likely due to the first word: “食”. 学 is easily translated to “studies” or “-ology”, but 食, with it more complex Chinese associations and meanings, is far more difficult to express in English much less translate.

Ultimately, I think “food studies” is probably the best term for 食学, since they both do essentially the same thing (see wikipedia page for food studies).

By no means should attemps to find a term that “sounds weighty”. It can backfire and make the everything sound pretentious.

21 November 2013

What about “Food Compass” ? This seems all inclusive as your description of your friend’s project would suggest. There are many possible variants to this too like “Nutricompass” etc.

21 November 2013


10 January 2014

culinary science?

23 February 2014

I agree with poster above, “shi xue” . It is easy to say and remember for western tongues and seems to encompass more than other suggested names.
I think a doctorate in “shi xue” would be a valuable asset to society.

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