Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Chocolatey Enough for a Woman…

Posted by Neal on May 9, 2005

As Adam’s therapy has moved into more social goals, we’ve incorporated “Community Trips” into his programs. He and we and one of his therapists take a trip to a museum or the zoo or the OSU Chimpanzee Center or someplace, the idea being that more natural conversations can be encouraged this way than by sitting at the table, saying, “My favorite food is pizza” and waiting for Adam to say, “Oh! My favorite food is hot dogs.” One of our recent trips took us to the Columbus North Market, and as we were wandering around trying to promote conversation, I saw this at a store selling Japanese food:


Men’s chocolate? Ten steps later on, it still didn’t make any sense. It was so weird that I had to go back and take a picture of it with the camera we’d taken along to record that day’s community trip. (It looks like these guys were similarly bemused.)

The next week, the picture was in Adam’s Community Trips scrapbook, in time for him to go through the book with his therapist and reminisce with her about the stuff they’d done on the latest outing. His therapist liked the picture so much that she asked for a copy to show to her Women’s Studies class. Her Women’s Studies professor liked it so much that she put it up on the bulletin board in the department. And all her Women’s Studies classmates agreed: If men’s chocolate has to be specifically labeled as such, then one must conclude [NW: by the Maxim of Quantity] that all other chocolate must be women’s chocolate. (Or, I suppose, X’s chocolate for any X that is not a man.) I can’t fault their reasoning.

But what is so manly about this chocolate? Is it the shape? No, by that logic, any chocolate in bar form would be men’s chocolate. Besides, Pocky’s ordinary chocolate has the same shape. If someone has the answer, please enlighten us.


12 Responses to “Chocolatey Enough for a Woman…”

  1. Anonymous said

    the reason why it’s called a “men’s pocky” is because of the flavor. it’s dark chocolate–“a bittersweet with a mature version” (and somehow more manly–go figure). i read this in wikipedia.
    my favorite is the strawberry pocky. it’s so yummy…


  2. Anonymous said

    i meant “a bittersweet and mature version.”

    yeah, the japanese and koreans have an odd way of advertising things–it’s almost bizarre. when i watch tv with my parents sometimes at their place and i just think they have the strangest commercials.

    you should check out for some hillarious interpretation of the english language. i guarantee laughs. you’ll get a kick out of it neal especially being a linguist.


  3. Anonymous said

    i know i’m posting to death but i had to share a few snack names–these are *actual* products in japan and korea (courtesy of angel sweet asse, coolpis, pecker, chocolate collon, and homo sausage–yeah i know, shocking eh?


  4. Steve Hartman Keiser said

    Hi Neil!

    Always interesting to stop in at literal-minded every week or so. The Pocky Men’s chocolate I’ve seen before: Kiyoko Yoneyama brought some with her a few years back and shared it in the OSU phonetics lab. Explanation was the same as offered by sk…bittersweet = for men, milk chocolate = for women. I bet a survey of Americans would reveal a similar tendency.

    Steve HK

  5. Anonymous said

    I just came across this website while I was doing some research for my term paper. I am a linguist myself, and it’s very interesting that you mentioned “men’s pocky”. I was born and raised in Japan, and I think I can shed some lights on this one. The reason why glico came up with “men’s” pocky is that in Japan (not like here.. not at all) sweets (any kind of dessert or even chocolatey snacks) are considered for women. But they knew that there are some guys out there who love chocolatey snacks– hence the men’s version of pocky sticks. It somehow had to be “manly” enough for men to be able to be seen snacking- that’s why it’s bitter (dark) chocolate coated. Ironically, men’s pocky is loved by women who love bitter chocolate over milk chocolate. Hope this highlights some cultural differences as well..

  6. Neal said

    Thanks, sk, Steve, and Anonymous for the cultural insights. Looks like the “chocolate is for women” inference was accurate, but for Japanese culture, not American.

  7. blahedo said

    This idea is not unique to East Asian cultures; dark chocolate (or at least, some kinds of dark chocolate) are referred to as “Herrenschokolade” in German, i.e., “men’s chocolate”. (There is no corresponding “Frauenschokolade”, though in its ongoing march towards sentience, Google will helpfully suggest that prehaps you meant “Herrenschokolade” instead….)

  8. Hello, everyone. Ben Munson here, from the University of Minnesota, Ph.D. from OSU in ’00, with Jan Edwards (advisor) and Mary Beckman (de facto second-in-charge).

    The idea that one would need to qualify only a subset of chocolate as masculine (i.e., to take the arguably defensive position made by Man’s Pocky that chocolate is inherently feminine, and that only the dark, bittersweet, 60% cocoa chocolate is manly) is far from universal. See the Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate, from the late 1990s. In that film, chocolate (as an ice cream flavor) was the default masculine flavor, and the man who chose strawberry was (correctly) identified as gay.

    I personally like the Pocky flavor that Kiyoko mysteriously described as ‘milk.’ It really did taste like milk, by which I mean REAL non-homogenized milk from grass-fed cows, sweetened with about a ton of sugar. Delicious.

  9. Anonymous said

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Alex said

    I think part of the underlying idea here is that having something “black”, as in coffee or chocolate, is inherently more stoic / masochistic on your taste buds and therefore masculine.

    Adding milk or cream or sugar to something to make it taste less “strong” is by the same token an admission of surrender, implying that you couldn’t handle the item’s original taste, and is therefore more “feminine”.

    What substance is more feminine than milk? And what’s less stereotypically manly than purposefully adding milk to something so that it doesn’t taste as “powerful”? Makes sense to me.

    There’s something of the same gender assumptions going on with adding emollients to alcoholic drinks too – cowboys in the movies order whisky neat, men of questionable testicular fortitude order drinks with shaved ice, fruit juice and umbrellas.

  11. Devon said

    This isn’t an answer or explanation, just another observation of this sort of labeling. I’m studying in the UK right now, and see “Man” being used as an adjective everywhere – Mansized Tissues, Man Crisps, and, of course, Yorkie Chocolate bars, which go overboard in stating that they’re not for women. ( I bought one out of spite, and all I noticed was that it was chunkier.

  12. […] it’s true that you can sometimes force only to modify a noun that came just before it, as in This chocolate is for men only. But for this to work, you have to stress the only, not the noun it modifies. It just sounds weird […]

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