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Effectiveness of Diction, Ethos, and Arrangement in “Don’t Blame the Eater”

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Effectiveness of Diction, Ethos, and Arrangement in “Don’t Blame the Eater” In his op-ed piece for the New York Times, “Don’t Blame the Eater,” David Zinczenko uses diction, ethos, and arrangement effectively by using specific words to fit their context, building up his credibility through his experiences, and arranging his argument to be an easy read. He argues that kids are not completely to blame for unhealthy eating, as that lies with the fast food industry as a whole. The problem is a national crisis – there’s no readily available healthy and inexpensive food for kids to eat, but companies like McDonald’s have mastered the art of accessibility, building over 13,000 restaurants across the country.

The essay opens with a joke, claiming that Jay Leno could use portly kids suing McDonald’s in an upcoming monologue. This hooks the reader’s attention because most people have at least heard of Jay Leno, and may have watched his late night show before. The next sentence is funny as well, comparing kids suing McDonald’s to “middle-aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets” (Zinczenko 153). It probably wasn’t the objective of the simile, but I could only think about my mother getting mad at my father for buying a sports car to drive fast, so it causes a chuckle. The rest of page 153 discusses rather heavy childhood sorrows, but uses different words to almost make fun of his past. Then on page 154, the tone changes and he gets serious with statistics. “Before 1994…only about 5 percent of childhood cases were obesity-related… Today… Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 30 percent of all new childhood cases…” (Zinczenko 154).

That sounds like it came from another writer, it’s grim. The transition from joking to serious makes the serious part stand out more than if it were just another drab article in the Times. He goes on to describe the $100 billion in annual health care costs, making the reader think about where their tax dollars are being used unnecessarily. To relieve this he throws in a joke using the word grapefruit. Any comedian will tell you that grapefruit is a funny word. He continues to be serious throughout the essay with little jokes here and there, and leaves you with a play on words, writing “let the deep-fried chips fall where they may” (Zinczenko 155). Right off the bat, Zinczenko describes the plaintiffs of the McDonald’s case as “portly fast-food patrons” (Zinczenko 153). Portly and patron are typically used to describe older gentlemen, more likely to be involved in a lawsuit than some kids.

Portly and patron also form an alliteration, emphasizing the size of the kids. Zinczenko continues to use similar language, describing himself, “By age 15, I had packed 212 pounds of torpid teenage tallow on my once lanky 5-foot-10 frame.” (Zinczenko 153). This use of alliteration highlights Zinczenko’s body-shape and helps the reader to remember that throughout the essay. The word lanky is a synonym to thin or slender, but it has a more unflattering connotation. He could have easily said, “I was a thin kid but gained a lot of weight by 15.” Instead, choosing these specific words creates more vivid imagery in the reader’s head and makes reading the essay more enjoyable. In paragraph 4, he describes teenagers that “have crossed under the golden arches to a likely fate of lifetime obesity” (Zinczenko 154). Playing on the McDonald’s logo, Zinczenko relates the golden arches to a singular arch in some religious practices, saying that they’ll be obese for life. Also in the same sentence he uses the austere word obesity for the first time, rather than more joking terms like portly and fat. Towards the end of the essay, Zinczenko uses another alliteration, “launching lawsuits” (Zinczenko 155).

Launching is usually related to rocket science, not civil law, but being that it’s kids that are suing, they’re likely to partake in an imaginary space mission so using the word launching lets the reader know again the shocking truth about the lawsuit. Lastly the use of the word ‘swelling’ to describe the growth of healthcare costs of Burger King and McDonalds is fantastic, because the kids that are raising their costs are swelling as well. Zinczenko also creates positive ethos through his résumé, personal experience and use of statistics and creative thinking. At the time of writing he was the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine and is presently the President and CEO of Galvanized Brands. He’s written bestsellers, been on popular talk shows, and has a Navy background. If you drop names like the New York Times and Oprah and through in your patriotism, people will want to read and believe whatever it is you have to say. Zinczenko grew up as a “latchkey kid” (Zinczenko 153), meaning he somewhat raised himself, and he was heavily dependent on fast food companies like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.

This led to obesity by the age of 15, but within 5 years he was in the Navy and working for a health magazine. That turnaround adds credibility because he experienced everything the kids did but also is educated in solving health problems and dealing with fast food. He breaks apart the nutrition facts of a chicken salad at an unnamed restaurant to find its advertised caloric value of 150 to actually be 1490 once you add all the toppings and a Coke. The reader sees this misleading information as the restaurant lying and immediately sides with Zinczenko, giving him more credibility for simply stating facts. Over the course of the short essay, Zinczenko discusses the case of kids suing McDonald’s for making them fat, the effects on the individual, community, and nation, as well as some inner-workings of the restaurants. He makes his case to sympathize with the kids, but states the problem isn’t completely by fault of the restaurants, but also in local government.

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