I read a sentence in Word by Word by Kory Stamper which was:

Traditionally, the editors ring the cafeteria in groups of twos and threes, clutching our wine and murmuring quietly among ourselves while the marketing and customer service folks whoop it up in the centre of the room near the shrimp cocktail, having quantifiable, voluble amounts of loud fun.

First, cocktail is a drink not a place, so why does the author say "near" the cocktail. I think it would have made more sense of she had used cocktail bar. Second what does "shrimp" mean here?

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    Did you look up the word “cocktail” in a dictionary and why didn’t that help? – ColleenV Jul 9 '19 at 10:50
  • As I said in my question, according to dictionaries, it means "an icy drink of wine". So what I am asking is "cocktail" is a drink not a place, so why the author uses "near" with it. – user98062 Jul 9 '19 at 11:16
  • Did you look at the link in my comment? You shouldn’t rely on a dictionary that only gives you one definition. When that definition doesn’t fit, you should consult another dictionary. – ColleenV Jul 9 '19 at 11:29
  • @Coleen V- I googled the term "shrimp cocktail" and it's clear to me now that it means a dish that is served as an appetizer but I still want to ask why the writer is using "near" with it. I know I could be trying your patience. – user98062 Jul 9 '19 at 11:56
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    You should edit your question to include that information. The more explanation you put into your question, the more likely it is that you will get an answer that explains exactly what you want to know. – ColleenV Jul 9 '19 at 13:48

Yes, as others have pointed you towards - it's a dish.

In this context I think the writer is using "shrimp cocktail" as a cliche. The dish is a staple of many events with food.

So it can be thought of as a visual reference point that the reader will be familiar with - exactly where it is located isn't really relevant.

As it is also an uninspired but "fun" dish, it might be making a subtle dig at the more stereotypically extroverted marketing employees, though this interpretation is a bit of a stretch.

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  • Downvoters - a constructive comment would be helpful to improve responses.The answer given was not suggested in the original comments, and is not something that would necessarily be obvious to an English Language Learner. – Stacker Lee Jul 11 '19 at 12:58

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