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The scented word
Context, intrigue, and the problem of olfactory literacy

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The prevalence of published materialsdescribing, advertising, criticizing, and/or discussing theolfactory realm – specifically concerning personal andhousehold fragrance and as most recently evidenced bythe rise in internet publications – emphasizes aroma’spopularity and is aiding in an exploration of the languagewith which olfactory experience is translated. In this paper Iattempt to address the possibilities for a universal olfactiveliteracy through an examination of the English-languagevocabulary, classification approaches, and rhetoriccurrently being used to communicate about olfaction. Iconclude that like wine and cheese, a universalclassification system is possible, albeit dubious because ofboth the numerous ideas about and culturally-influencedwords used to describe and intrigue the consumer.However, internet sites are allowing for a new rhetoricalexploration of olfaction and aroma via blogs and discussionboards thereby broadening awareness of olfactorylanguage, popularizing commonly used terms, and aidingthe development of a more universal olfactive literacy viathe rich contextualizations used to discuss fragrance.