3

We've probably all seen at some point a panel on food packaging that lists quantities of sugars, fats, vitamins, minerals etc. found in the food.

Some packages I come across label this table as "Nutritional Information" while others (the vast majority it seems) label it as "Nutrition Information", i.e. the first is adjective-noun and the second is noun-noun.

The adjective-noun version is much more pleasing to me - the information is of or relating to nutrition - so it's always puzzled me why the noun-noun version is much more common.

Are there any special rules for titles/labels that make one preferable over the over? And, is there any reason why the noun-noun version is far more common?

2
  • 1
    The most common parsing of nutritional information means information that is nutritional, which makes little sense. It's close to saying nutritious information or nourishing information. Using the attributive noun makes the meaning clear—that it's information about nutrition. – Jason Bassford Jun 26 '20 at 6:21
  • 1
    That's a good point, but still, I think it's pretty clear from context. No one is literally eating information. Also, I would parse the suffix -al to mean "of or related to", so even the phrase "information that is nutritional" can still make sense, although a weird way to put it. I parse the suffix -ous to mean "having the property of"... nutritious information definitely does not make sense to me. – Phill Jun 26 '20 at 7:07
2

Beside the very plausible explanations given in a comment by user nnnnn,

"It's not as if noun noun is a rare formation in English generally. But anyway, it's possible that a single decision by one company to use "Nutrition Information" had a flow-on effect to other companies who just copied what was already in the market, and that that just snowballed. It's also possible that lots of seemingly unrelated brands are following a standard set by a common parent company.",

this view on how the two possibilities share the construction of nouns by modification shows that what predilection there is for one rather than the other is a matter that can be imputed sometimes to the vagaries of usage (the explanations given above being relevant of those latter).

Use when an adjectivally inflected alternative is available

It is a trait of natural language that there is often more than one way to say something. Any logically valid option will usually find some currency in natural usage. Thus "erythrocyte maturation" and "erythrocytic maturation" can both be heard, the first using a noun adjunct and the second using an adjectival inflection. In some cases one of the equivalent forms has greater idiomaticness; thus "cell cycle" is more commonly used than "cellular cycle". In some cases, each form tends to adhere to a certain sense; thus "face mask" is the normal term in hockey, and "facial mask" is heard more often in spa treatments. Although "spine cord" is not an idiomatic alternative to "spinal cord", in other cases, the options are arbitrarily interchangeable with negligible idiomatic difference; thus "spine injury" and "spinal injury" coexist and are equivalent from any practical viewpoint, as are "meniscus transplant" and "meniscal transplant". A special case in medical usage is "visual examination" versus "vision examination": the first typically means "an examination made visually", whereas the latter means "an examination of the patient's vision".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.