I was reading a short story and came across a vague part. Here is the part:

What she liked most about Ken Krieg? He didn’t mind she was taller or a volleyball star. Eating Buddhist cuisine in Buffalo, he told her flat as their food, “I want to marry you, work on Wall Street, and live in a mansion on Long Island.”

I have three questions. Firstly, what does "flat" mean exactly in this context? Secondly, as far as I understand "as their food" means "he told her flat when they eat food" But I am not sure if it is correct. Finally, what is the overall meaning of the bold one in quotes?

Source: https://everydayfiction.com/say-cheese-by-gerald-so/

  • 2
    No, "flat as their food" does not mean "when they eat food." For it to mean that, there would have to be a verb there, like "told her flat as they ate food", but "their food" is just a noun phrase. But the whole sentence is so strange I'm wondering if it's an editing error and a word was left out.
    – stangdon
    May 1, 2021 at 16:42
  • I agree with you. But a day doesn't go by without learning a new English pattern:) So I have thought it might be a different use. Maybe someone who knows will explain :)
    – grammarian
    May 1, 2021 at 16:54
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    "no meat and no fish and no MSG, no garlic, no onion, no green onion, no spring onion, or leek." Tofu. Yuk. All those 'Nos'. Calling Buddhist food 'flat' is understandable at once to me. Unseasoned, bland, inoffensive, plain. I might say 'unexciting' or 'dull' except at times when those qualities are what I need. May 1, 2021 at 17:06
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    This is an attempt to use: tell someone something flat out, creatively.
    – Lambie
    May 1, 2021 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


It is odd.

To tell someone flat(ly) means to tell them directly. Not using euphemism or metaphor or drama. It is not common to tell some flatly "I want to marry you". Usually, it is asked with some drama (rings, going on one knee etc).

Buddhist cuisine tends to be simple rice-based vegetarian dishes. It doesn't use lots of spices. Perhaps someone who is used to highly spiced food could describe Buddhist cuisine as "flat". That is a rather odd use, but it is the only thing I can suppose from the context.

So Ken told her that he wanted to marry her in a very flat way. A flat as Buddhist food is "flat".

It is an odd expression, I don't recommend using it.

  • 1
    That is my interpretation but I was unsure and was going to write it as a comment.
    – AdrianHHH
    May 1, 2021 at 16:57
  • Gotcha, thank you @james K :) For the prospective reader of this post in the future. I am putting this link which explains the meaning of "to tell somebody flat": ldoceonline.com/dictionary/tell-somebody-flat
    – grammarian
    May 1, 2021 at 18:33

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