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Listen to Gavin Dudeney

Elsewhere in this series we looked at 'downsizing', and now it's the turn of 'supersizing'. You may remember this term from the Morgan Spurlock film Super Size Me where the director attempted to live for an entire month only on food available from McDonald's. And perhaps it's no surprise that McDonald's are credited for bringing this word into existence.

The idea came from a man called David Wallerstein who had worked out that people who are very hungry often feel guilty about buying two items of the same food, but can be persuaded to buy one bigger portion. Wallerstein took the idea to McDonald's in the mid-nineties where customers suddenly found themselves being asked if they would like their menu supersized.

Essentially this meant buying bigger burgers, bigger chips (or fries) and a bigger drink for a little more money. And so people got more food, but their guilty feelings of greed were kept at bay because - in their eyes - they were still only buying one burger, and one bag of chips.

Supersizing spread to other areas not long after that, and enjoyed a brief period as a positive term for something bigger and better. Cars were supersized, television shows with feature-length episodes were supersized and supersizing was all the rage.

However, with increasing criticism of fast food and consumerism in general, supersizing has fallen out of favour in recent years.


download transcriptTranscript (pdf - 32 K)
download lesson planLesson plan - Teacher's notes, student worksheets with answers (pdf - 79 K)
download audioAudio - Gavin Dudeney on "Supersize" (mp3 - 543 K)
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