Maybe I need to lighten up…I am not really sure why this rubs me the wrong way –the fact that a few times every year I see yet another article being posted about celiac disease or gluten sensitivities and the title is bright and bold “Gluten for Punishment”. Of course its the “gluten” spin on the phrase “Glutton for Punishment”.
According to the online Idioms Dictionary “Glutton for Punishment” means: “someone who is eager for a burden or some sort of difficulty; someone willing to accept a difficult task.” But when I read it as “Gluten for Punishment” it feels like the media taking uneducated stabs at finding a clever headline (which as you will see below is definitely not unique), but instead it’s really one more twist of the knife making it sound like all we do is crave gluten and we are sooo missing out without it, or that we are being punished because we cannot eat gluten. None of which is true.
So is the phrase annoying, incorrect or just an accurate play on words? Could it be all of the above?
“Gluten for Punishment” In the News
Here are some cases in point- explaining why, I feel, the headline is both annoying and incorrect:
This article from the New York Press was a review of a restaurant that had mostly gluten-free items. It raved about the restaurant. It mentions most items are gluten free for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease and “It might not seem like a big deal, but if you’re one of the people affected—or one of the people who has had to sit through the hell of ordering in a restaurant with someone who is—you’ll understand the appeal.” So why is the article entitled Gluten for Punishment?
Or this blog post from last February with the same title about the growing number of gluten free beers.
A Washington Post article from 2004 used the same title for the story they did on claims that are made on food labels and whether they are true or false.
And there’s even a product with the title in its name — Bite Me Brownies Gluten For Punishment (don’t actually say gluten free in the name) — the tag promotional line says “A gluten-free brownie that tastes amazing, some have said it couldn’t be done. Our browniologist loves a challenge and has answered the call.This triple chocolate brownie will take the gluten right out of your mouth! Are you ready to be punished, in a good way, with this triple threat?”
Is “Gluten for Punishment” all that bad?
So maybe I am overreacting. It could just be a masterful play on words…
I went to a source to get some perspective. Marci Riskin runs the blog glutenforpunishment.net. I had to know what she thought of the title and why she picked it. Knowing my negative vibe toward it, she still was kind enough to answer my questions.
Marci has been gluten free for two years with a gluten intolerance and she says she has had a pretty comfortable go of it being gluten free. “It’s been much more difficult being dairy free!”
I asked why she decided to entitle her blog “Gluten for Punishment” she said…”Because it was, in my mind, ironic. It’s the gluten that is ‘punishing’,” Riskin said. She believes her title is “tongue-in-cheek”. Hmmm. It is true… gluten is doing the punishing…that reason I can work with.
“Many gluten-free blogs are very earnest,” Riskin said. “I figured there was a place for humor in the gluten-free community. I started adding other thoughts (about knitting, life, art) because I’m not just a -person-who-doesn’t-eat-gluten; I didn’t want that one thing about me to define my entire life.”
Using Riskin’s view on the term, I am now able to accept the use in some forms: Like this article from the Rocky Mountain Telegram from January that highlights celiac disease, the symptoms, the gluten free diet and making good food. Or this article from the Tribeca Citizen that talked about the punishing effects gluten and other allergens can have on an intolerant body.
Surprised I have found this many headlines with that title?
I still maintain the line is overused (without much thought) as seen in the initial linked articles. Because, except for maybe the first few weeks of going gluten free, I think most intolerant folks or people with celiac disease know the diet makes them feel better. In some cases it has changed their lives for the better….they don’t feel not eating gluten is a punishment of any sort.
Now when someone else “Googles” the phrase “Gluten for Punishment”, this article will add to the list, but hopefully it will also add some insight.