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July 15, 2009

The Guardian is running a lively thread on the words that make people wince. It’s not about swear words that shock or offend but words which are naff, over-used or which just feel wrong in the mouth.

‘Chillax’ and the Californian use of the word ‘like’ as in ‘I was like totally chillaxed’ seem to feature prominently and, this being The Guardian, there also nominations for ‘textuality’, ‘inchoate’ and ‘pulchritude’.

It is like a totally personal thing but I wince when I see certain dishes on a menu. Chicken liver pate served with Melba toast always sends a shiver down my spine. Done well, it can be beautiful but, more often than not, it is a dish which seems to have escaped from the fridge of a run-down hotel that was last modernised in the Seventies.

Glaringly Scottish dishes have the same effect. I don’t mean Stornoway black pudding or bridies or cranachan but dishes which seem to have been dreamt up for American tourists. Chicken stuffed with haggis and swamped in a Drambuie sauce springs to mind as does anything that comes labelled as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Food like that doesn’t help Scotland get rid of its outdated image as a country where a turnip is a gastronomic treat and the Jacobites represent the latest culinary trends.

Also likely to cause a shudder are dishes which are specific to certain countries when they crop up in inappropriate places. There are exceptions but a Thai green curry from an Edinburgh howf is unlikely to make you think of Chiang Mai.

Which dishes make you eye the exit when you spot them on a menu?