The blog committee had a rather lengthy digression at a recent meeting about the adjective “cheesy” when applied to things other than food containing, well, cheese. There seemed to be some generational differences in our assessment of whether the term carried negative connotations that were inherently judgmental when applied to patrons reading/viewing preferences… which is something our bloggers (and our staff) DO NOT DO. The person who used it was a younger member of our group and did not think of it as a term that carried any such connotations while the group’s older members felt like we were reasons that “cheesy” should not be used to describe library collections. It was an interesting enough discussion that I thought I’d share here. 

One thing we agreed on: cheese is delicious. OK, granted, we have a group that is culturally wired to appreciate dairy (not all are) and does not include any vegans (or rather, it does, but they maybe stayed silent in the wake of my cheese-based enthusiasm…waves to @jclstweets who has told me he prefers Field Roast’s Chao Slices and can therefore be a vegan and pro cheese!). Also, none of us identified as lactose intolerant, though lactose intolerant people still sometimes like dairy, just not the, erm, consequences of consuming it. It should be abundantly clear, then, that this assessment that “cheese is delicious” in our sample was both true and also not universally true… but still. Yum. Also: if you are a cheese lover and want to understand why some people don’t share your feelings, Becky Chambers does an excellent job of breaking down how cheese might sound really gross to those who do not come from cultures where its consumption is normalized. We mentioned this passage in a prior post: OfDarmok and Cheese. BUT over here on team #cheeseisdelicious, we thought we’d kick this post off by sharing some books from our collection that give delicious cheesy cooking ideas. From macaroni and cheese to cheesecake. Have at it during this comfort eating season. 

…and now on to the non-food meaning of cheesy: Meriam Webster gives the definition “shabby or cheap.” This usage derives from slang of the late nineteenth century. Used this way, it definitely feels like a negative word. The thing is, in usage it doesn’t end there, even if the definition does. Overdramatic, overemotional, schmaltz—these words are also synonymous with cheesy as it is used. How cheesy came to carry this meaning appears to have evolved over time through slang usage. Tracking it down using the Internet is not as straightforward as one might presume. One only needs to imagine how subsequent generations will understand the creation of the phrase “that’s so fetch” from Mean Girls to understand that slang’s roots are circuitous and learned through context rather than dictionaries. We know what cheesy means because we know how it’s used. We struggled with whether “cheesy” was appropriate when applied to things we actually celebrate, like Hallmark Christmas Movies. In spite of the negative connotations of the word, we don’t always mean it to be interpreted negatively. In fact, there seemed to be a generational line involved in who saw it as a negative word on its face (those of us who were on the older side of our age range, points at self) while the younger of us didn’t have as much sense of the usage of the word in the negative sense. It made us wonder if, perhaps, “cheesy” is the new “campy?” Just like we are pro-cheese, we are also pro-Hallmark-Christmas-Movies. They are comforting. They are delicious. They are maybe just a teensy bit extra. Like really gooey mac & cheese (made from scratch, not the box kind). 

Which is all by way of saying, we, here at the Library Connect Blog, do appreciate cheese. From cheesy foods to cheesy films… we would like some more of that please. And, of course, you can find some of our favorite “cheesy” movies here to enjoy with the delicious cheesy goodies you make using our cookbook list. Both are perfect for these chilly winter days!