Sweet Freak


Politics seems to dominate American discourse in 2017, making it likely that in January 2018, when members and friends of the American Dialect Society choose the Word of the Year 2017, their vote will go to a political word or phrase. One week sheetcake has everyone’s attention for its new political meaning; the next week it’s Dreamers, and so on.

But despite the preoccupation with politics, it’s still possible that WOTY 2017 could be something quite different, and a lot sweeter: the freakshake. Or at least it might win the Miss Congeniality prize.

You won’t find freakshake in the online Oxford English Dictionary — yet — nor is it in Merriam-Webster‘s unabridged online, nor in the comprehensive lexicographical collection Wordnik. As of Thursday morning, it wasn’t even in the up-to-datest catchall for neologisms, Urban Dictionary.

But I predict that soon enough it will be on everyone’s radar. It’s too delicious to resist.

So what is a freakshake? You might call it a deconstructed milkshake. But let’s go to the source, a bakery and restaurant in Canberra, Australia, where the freakshake (or FreakShake, in their trademarked spelling) was invented in 2015. According to the website of Patissez:

“all we wanted to do was take the humble milkshake & make it into something special. Each FreakShake ™ we create starts with a theme — it’s not about buying a myriad of sweets & shoving it in to the top of a mason jar, it has to have a purpose.”

Two years later, freakshakes are thriving in the diaspora. For a luscious-looking display of freakshakes around the world, try this Bravo website showing “8 freakshakes you can find in a city near you,” sampling New York; Boston; Orlando; Miami; Toronto; London; Portland, Ore., as well as one from the ur-home of FreakShakes, Patissez, of Canberra.

Here’s Bravo’s description of a Patissez FreakShake:

“An ode to the Snickers Bar, their Sneaky Freak is served with loads of salted crunchy peanut caramel slathered in and all around the jar. Inside, liquid Snickers, crushed salted peanuts and light chocolate mousse are crowned with a Snickers caramel ice cream that’s been dipped in chocolate, rolled in marshmallow and torched before hitting the glass.”

But that description was published in March 2016. So why am I bringing it up now?

It’s because, thanks to my wife, I just now learned that the freakshake has come to the heartland, in Springfield, Ill., not far from where we live. The venue is Bunn Gourmet, a great place to dine or get just desserts. Freakshakes have been available there for the past six weeks — but only Friday evenings from 4 to 9 p.m., and only till they run out, which the person who answered their phone said was usually around 7:30. This week they’re featuring Peanut Butter Cup and Milk & Cookies shakes.

So I’d better get in line now, to make sure I can eat my words.

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