Follow-up to the Häagen-Dazs gelato campaign here, with its tasty names: a story in Stanford Magazine of July/August about research by my colleague Dan Jurafsky: “Why Ice Cream Sounds Fat and Crackers Sound Skinny: Words carry weight. A linguist explains”. The brief version:
… front vowels are used in words for small, thin, light things, and back vowels in words for big, fat, heavy things
… Since ice cream is a product whose whole purpose is to be rich, creamy and heavy, it is not surprising that people seem to prefer ice creams that are named with back vowels.
… In a study for an upcoming book based on my freshman seminar The Language of Food, I checked to see whether commercial ice creams (like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s) make use of this association by using more back vowels in their names, and conversely whether thin, light foods like crackers would have more front vowels. I found more back vowels in ice cream names — Rocky Road, Jamoca Almond Fudge, Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie Dough, Coconut — and more front vowels in cracker names: Cheese Nips, Cheez-It, Wheat Thins, Pretzel thins, Ritz, Krispy, Triscuit, Chicken in a Biskit, Ritz bits.