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Is the adjective "decadent" suitable to be used in the context "a decadent cheesecake"?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It will turn your prose purple, but sure.

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Is it appropriate to use purple prose when describing a product on a website? – Proffesor In English May 26 '11 at 18:22
This is veering into the realm of opinion, but here's mine: only if you're writing ad copy. – senderle May 26 '11 at 18:25
Ok, many thanks. – Proffesor In English May 26 '11 at 18:25
I don't think this is a particularly purple usage. The adjective decadent is particularly used with rich and fatty foodstuffs, like creme, fine chocolate, caviar, foie gras, etc. – Uticensis May 27 '11 at 9:09
@Billare, I agree that it's commonly used -- but if you consider its primary meaning, as in the phrase "the decadence of Rome," it seems pretty hyperbolic, don't you think? I mean, Nero wasn't just eating cheesecake. – senderle May 27 '11 at 14:39

Yes, it's suitable and common. It's lost most of its punch through over-use, but it won't look odd at all.

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It depends on what you want to communicate about the cheesecake. – Charles May 26 '11 at 18:27
That's just the thing: if you have nothing in particular to say about it, you can write "decadent" which is used mostly to connote luxury. But if you have something in particular to communicate about the product, e.g. "berry/light/tiramisu/large/traditional cheesecake", I would say that and drop the "decadent". – Charles May 26 '11 at 18:34
Other suitable near-content-free patter: elegant, sinful, delightful, delicious. – Charles May 26 '11 at 18:37
@Proffesor, Charles has spelled out what I meant to convey: 'decadent' is perfectly grammatical, but it means almost nothing when applied to 'cheesecake.' It's a filler word. If you've tasted the cheesecake, do your audience a favor and tell them whether it's light or dense, whether it has a creamy or a fluffy texture. But if you haven't tasted it... well, 'decadent' is as good a filler as any. (Though I would probably go for 'luscious.') – senderle May 26 '11 at 19:13
@Proffesor In English: Decadent isn't totally meaningless. In the context of a cheesecake it implies extravagantly luxurious (i.e. - full of tasty sugar & fat, but you don't want to actually say that). But in the modern post-economic-crisis world it's probably best not to overplay such attributes. Now a spartan, frugal cheesecake - that might sell! – FumbleFingers May 26 '11 at 19:20

In advertising slang, this usage is common, and it means—well, that is the problem with advertising. It doesn't mean anything specific; it just wants to evoke images of a decadent lifestyle, with lots of delicious food.

This does not belong in any serious text, though, where the word decadent is mostly limited to describing (groups of) people or habits straying from the right path, whatever that may be.

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