eating bonbons & watching soap operas

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sun Sep 8 12:15:17 UTC 2002

My own guess is that there is a not-so-subtle attempt at class
differences between "eating bonbons and watching TV" and "eating
cupcakes and watching Oprah."


>I was talking to a friend today who used the phrase "eating bonbons and
>watching soap operas"; we both noted that we are not sure exactly what a
>bonbon is. She thought it was some sort of baked thing like a cupcake or a
>HoHo. I was thinking more of a candy, a chocolate truffle-like concept; in
>my mind bonbon is a general term for any confection that is complex and
>fancy and round; a Snickers bar is not a bonbon (wrong shape & not fancy) &
>neither is a jelly bean (too simple). Dictionary agrees more with me than
>my friend, but I'm wondering 1) where did this phrase come from originally
>and 2) did it always have the meaning of sitting around doing nothing,
>living a life of leisure, &c. and 3) do most people have a clear idea of
>what a bonbon is?
>It's definitely a gendered thing referring to women (accusatory of
>housewives, enviously descriptive of glamorous jetset types).
>The "watching TV" part appears optional; "eating bonbons" by itself seems
>to convey the whole meaning.
>A coworker of mine updated the phrase to "eating cupcakes and watching
>Oprah" when she quit her job a few years ago. So the cupcake connotation of
>bonbon does seem to be out there....
>google results:
>eating bonbons 2090
>eating bonbons watching 714 (includes "TV" "soaps" "soap operas" "soapies")
>eating bonbons watching soap 117
>Indigo Som
>indigo at
>Album of the Week: Neko Case, Blacklisted (2002)

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list