.

.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Are you as sloppy a writer as I am?

Sheila M. Clark, my hawk-eyed editor, noticed that I had used the word "illicit" instead of "elicit" in a new book ABOUT PUBLISHING MISTAKES we're working on. Some of my books share material, so I checked and found the error in three books. It was also on a website and on this blog.

As a renowned and committed nitpicker, I am deeply embarrassed by this horrible senior moment (a.k.a. "brain fart").

OTOH, I am greatly disappointed that none of you folks caught the error. It would have been a great opportunity to dump on me for being a damn hypocrite.

There are lessons for all writers and publishers in this, of course:
  1. A spell-checker won't let you know if you have used the wrong word, but spelled it properly.
  2. Heterographs and homophones are dangerous. 
  3. All writers need editors. Even editors who write need editors.
  4. The English language is a minefield.
  5. Nobody is perfect -- even nitpickers like me.
Will this recent failure mean that I'll become mellow, tolerant, compassionate and understanding? Will I stop complaining about other people's fuckups?

Naah! To err is human. It can also be funny.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ebook text does not have to look like crap, so why are so many ebook pages so ghastly?

With most ebook formats, designers don't have the freedom they have with pbooks.

However, the constraint is not an excuse to produce and distribute ugliness.

It's possible to publish very nice ebooks -- but knowledge, taste and care are vital.


from I Call Him King by Quiet Storm, published by Esquire Publications: 



-------------------------------------------

(Minor criticism: the diagonal stress of the old style drop cap "O" is disconcerting.)

from I Invented the Modern Age by Richard Snow, published by Scribner



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The most useless email of 2014 (so far)

The email subject is "what’s missing?" and Kevin Wilke repeatedly refers to "this industry." Nowhere in the email does Kevin tell me what industry he is referring to. I'm involved in several industries. Does Kevin know anything about me?

Kevin also refers to his neighbor, Peter. Who the hell is Peter? Should I care about Peter?

What a stupid waste of effort and electrons!

If you're sending a sales letter, don't leave out vital information.

Hi Michael, 
 
That’s been a question I’ve asked the past 5 years
of being involved in this industry.
 
With such an over-abundance of information and
training on what to do… then what is missing for
the people that are not making at least 
$100,000 or more in this industry with ease?
 
I bet if we open up your hard drive or email,
there is enough information there to last you
5 lifetimes!  lol
 
What if you don’t need more information to
create a dramatic and profound leap forward
in the results you start getting right now
in your business?
 
Having spent the past year working with Peter,
(he lives a couple blocks from me in New York)
he has radically opened my eyes to 
THE MISSING SECRET.
 
Its no wonder that the clients that work with
him (he charges a small fortune to work with him too)
get INSANE results compared to everybody else
in their industries.
 
And as a personal favor he is going to share
final training webinar of the year.
 
This is THE webinar to attend if you want to make
radical leaps forward in your business going into 2015.
 
I’m calling it the “NO More Shiny Objects!” training!
 
Seriously, you can be free from an overwhelming list of 
complicated tactics and shiny objects distracting you.
 
And instead be taking more action, that’s HIGHLY
productive, consistently every week then you ever
dreamed possible.
 
 
       This Thursday You Will Discover…
 
***  The #1 Reason You Are Not Accomplishing More 
In Your Business (and how evolution has programmed 
you to constantly fail)
 
***  How to start using the 5 Pillars To High Achievement 
And Unstoppable Action in your business today.
 
***  The Secret to Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and 
Elon Musk’s extraordinary success that you can 
duplicate for yourself.
 
***  How To Use Jerry Seinfeld’s Simple #1 Method 
To Mastering Comedy To Become a Master Local Marketer
 
***  How to use what you already have and powerfully 
take action and set yourself up to Crush It in 2015. 
 
***  You will leave and start making dramatically more 
progress and start accomplishing more in 1 week 
than you used to in 1 month (while using the same 
amount of time you do right now.)
 
 
Register today and Show Up Early because this 
will be a packed-house training because its solving
the missing piece in this business for you.
 
 
 
To Your Success,
Kevin Wilke

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chappy (oops) Chanukah (oops)

And now, while western civilization is once again debating "Merry Christmas" v. "Happy Holidays," Michael declares the right way (or two right ways) to spell the name of the Jewish "festival of lights" in English.
- - - - -
As a language maven and a nitpicker I have long been pissed off by the multiple efforts to transliterate the Hebrew word חֲנֻכָּה into English.
Transliteration is often a tough task, but it's often necessary. Problems are caused by the unavailability of an appropriate English letter, and by multiple pronunciations of the same English letter or combination of letters ("digraph"). The beginning of חֲנֻכָּה suffers from both problems.
The first letter of the Hebrew word for the holiday is called "chet." It is not pronounced like the first name of deceased NBC newsman Chet Huntley. The "ch" sounds like you're clearing your throat. It's not like the "ch" in "Chevrolet," "Chrysler" or "chair." The sound is common in Hebrew, Yiddish and German.
You probably say it without thinking in the name of Johann Sebastian Bach (not "back," "bash," "batch" or "bock"), and in the "ich" sound you make when encountering something really disgusting.
In Hebrew written for beginners, vowels are presented as diacritical marks (little symbols under or adjacent to a letter). The vowel under the letter for "ch" is pronounced like the "a" in "far."
The second letter in the Hebrew word (Hebrew is written and read from right to left) makes the "n" sound and its vowel indicates "oo." It could be transliterated as "noo," "new" or "nu" (as in "numeral," nut "number"). While the Hebrew vowel indicates "oo," the English pronunciation is usually the most common English vowel sound: "uh" -- like the "u" in "butter"
The third letter and its vowel sound like the "ca" in "car." It's commonly written as "ka" and I'm willing to go along.
The fourth and final letter causes a problem for me. It's the Hebrew equivalent of the English "h" and is silent, like the "h" in "bah." There is no need for it in an English transliteration but it's an accurate representation of the original Hebrew.
"Chanuka" works just fine, and starting today that's how I will spell it. "Chanukah" is too long by one letter, but doesn't piss me off too much. It has about 7 million Google links. It's used on some -- but not all -- cards from American Greetings. It's also used by the UK's Times newspaper -- but only sometimes.

The dominant and stupid version of the holiday's name is "Hanukkah" (Wikipedia, Adam Sandler, the White House, the USPS, the New York Times, Hallmark Cards and American Greetings, sometimes). It has about 22 million Google links.
The "H" at the beginning is simply inaccurate. It's Hebrew for dummies, dammit. The doubled "k" is Hebrew _from_ dummies. Unlike the initial "H," the final "h" is true to the Hebrew -- but it's superfluous in English.
"Hannukka" eliminates the silly final "h" but maintains the inaccurate initial "H" and stupidly doubles both the "n" and the "k." Wikipedia shows more than 21,00 links for this aberration, including the Facebook page for the Israeli army. Fortunately, they fight better than they spell.
Other strange variations include Channukkah and Hanooka.
The favorite sport of Jewish people is disagreement, and disagreeing about spelling and other aspects of language is normal. Oy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Market research trick, and bookselling tip

If you know what you want to write about, the Internet will make it much easier to do market research than before the world was online.

With a little bit of typing, clicking and reading you can find out what potential readers are interested in -- and where you can reach them when it's time to sell books.



Use search engines to find terms like I’ve listed below. Simply replace “golden retriever” with “super hero” or “Argentina” or "beer" or "horseback riding" or whatever you want to write about.

“golden retriever forum”
“golden retriever message board”
“golden retriever bulletin board”
“golden retriever club”
“golden retriever association”
“golden retriever community”
“golden retriever organization”
“golden retriever news”
“golden retriever newsgroup”

When your book is nearly finished, return to the same websites and mention to appropriately articulate participants that you are writing a book on the subject, and would like to send them a preview copy for their opinion. You can mention that you may want to quote them on the book cover.

After publication, go back again and answer some questions, and point out that your new book provides additional valuable information.

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's time to abolish the term "published author."
It's easier to become a published author than a Cub Scout.


A great many years ago I was a Cub Scout. I have four memories of scouting:

(1) At one meeting some of us stood behind cardboard 'rocks' and held up a flag to re-enact the Iwo Jima flag-raising scene.

(2) At another meeting my father won a prize for bending some pipe cleaners into a horse and cart.

(3) As part of a fundraising project three of us went door-to-door trying to earn money. The kid in charge would ring bells and ask "Do you have any chores to do?" He should have asked if there were any chores that WE could do for money. This sinful sentence was spoken more than 60 years ago but so hurt my ears that I have not forgotten the sin nor forgiven the sinner.

(4) The lowest rank in Cub Scouting is Bobcat. Every Cub starts as a Bobcat. You can't be a Cub Scout and not be at least a Bobcat. A Bobcat is lower than a Wolf or a Bear. A Bobcat doesn't have to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, build a crystal radio, bandage a wound, walk on snowshoes or help an old lady cross the street. To be a Bobcat a kid has to learn and say the Cub Scout motto, promise and the Law of the Pack -- and tell what they mean; show the Cub Scout sign, salute and handshake -- and tell what they mean; and show that he understands and believes that it is important to be honest and trustworthy.

Since those requirements were so basic, (if I remember correctly) we were not allowed to wear our Bobcat pins on our spiffy new uniforms.

I thought of that recently when I was reading an introduction from a new member of an online group for authors.

The newbie said, "I am a published author."

I wanted to say, "BIG FUCKING DEAL!"


At one time being a published author implied that either:
  • A person wrote something so important or wonderful that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is so famous (like Levi Johnston, the almost-son-in-law of Sarah Palin) that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is egotistical and wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars to a vanity press to publish the book.
Today, it takes almost no skill, time or money to become a published author.
  • If you can click a keyboard and move a mouse, you can be a published author.
  • The cost can be ZERO.
  • You don't have to impress anyone.
  • You can be a terrible writer and still be a published author.
  • It doesn't matter if nobody reads your book.
  • It's easier to become an author than to become a Bobcat.
  • You don't even have to learn to salute or promise to follow Akela.
Since it is so easy to become a published author, it means nothing to say you are one.



(By the way, it means almost nothing to say you're a bestselling author -- but I'm one.)





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Am I a writer or a ball?


Too much to do that people expect me to do that I don't feel like doing.
Too much to do that I want to do but can't start or finish.
Too much that was fun but is no longer fun.
Too many books unread and unwritten.
Too many bills that I can't pay.
Too much news I can't stand.
Too little to look forward to.
Too little tolerance.
Too little energy.
Too little time.
Too little joy.

Is this depression, sadness, pissed-offedness? Sometimes I seem like a ball on a pool table, bouncing around and reacting, not initiating action.

I still have a tear in my right eye from a Bob Edwards interview on the radio over an hour ago.

I have to pee but lack the motivation to stand up and go to the john.

Some body parts always hurt. Others have no sensation. My typing is filled with errors caused by my brain malfunctioning, not by sloppy typing.

Have I lost "it?" Where/why did "it" go?

Have I finally, at age 68, passed from middle age to old?

Why did I type this instead of finishing writing three long-past-due books?

Will reading this help me? Can I give myself a good kick in the ass?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I beat the Tweet but I'm not as popular as sex or God

Amazon ranks the sales of all of its products -- books as well as computers and Tootsie Rolls. The competitive ranking can be terrible for an author's ego -- or good.

One morning just over two years ago, I had a big thrill. (Actually, just getting out of bed can be a thrill. Some people can't do it.)

Amazon’s sales ranking is cryptic, confusing, convoluted, confounding, complicated and not particularly useful. Amazon says, “The calculation is based on sales and is updated each hour to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold.”  The lower the number, the better the book was selling at a particular moment

It can feel really good to crack the top one hundred.

I am using today's blog post to exercise my bragging rights (temporary as they may be).

[below] A book about writing dirty books was ranked #22 in the authorship category.




[below] A book about writing 'Christian novels' was ranked #51 in the authorship category.



[below] My brand-new book about tax deductions and other business issues for writers was ranked #72 in the authorship category. It had been on sale for just two days. I had not done any significant promotion, so this ranking made me feel really good.

As we enter the season for doing tax returns, this $2.99 book might save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.


[below] A book about author tweeting' was ranked #84 in the authorship category. I beat the Tweet. Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Want real fame? Try to get on Wikipedia


"Internet fame" can be measured in several ways. Kids compete to be the first to accumulate 1,000 friends on Facebook. Adults may count their search engine links. (My best friend from childhood has about 200,000 Google links. I have about 8,000. However, I have about 17,000 links on Bing and he has just 3,240.)

But none of these statistics is as impressive as having a biography on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the Internet’s mammoth free encyclopedia, a valuable reference source — and an addictive time-waster — for millions of people worldwide. Almost anyone can gain Google and Bing search links, but most people are not deemed worthy of an article on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia says: “The topic of an article should be notable, or ‘worthy of notice;’ that is, ‘significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded.’ Notable in the sense of being ‘famous,’ or ‘popular’ — although not irrelevant — is secondary. This notability guideline for biographies reflects consensus reached through discussions and reinforced by established practice, and informs decisions on whether an article on a person should be written, merged, deleted or further developed.”

While you can publish an article about yourself, or have someone write about you, you must be noteworthy and the article mush be neutral and verifiable. An inappropriate article will usually be deleted quickly. If you want to be enshrined in Wikipedia, do something important that others will notice, like D. H. Lawrence, above.

Of course, being on Wikipedia doesn't mean you're wonderful. Atilla the Hun, Torquemada, Stalin and Hitler made the cut. Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle were approved, too. So is the cockroach.

Two of my high school classmates have their life stories on Wikipedia. I am mentioned on Wikipedia, but so far, alas, no full biography.


Monday, December 8, 2014

"Font" does not really mean "typeface," but the terms are merging





[above] A typeface is a distinctive type design, often named after its designer such as Goudy, Caslon or Lubalin. Sometimes a typeface is named to honor a person, place or event. Some names imply a mood or genre.  “Harlow” implies glamor. “Asylum,” “Trashco” and “You Murderer” do not. Typefaces named “Goofball” or “Comic” are probably not suitable for the annual report of an insurance company. Strangely, “Grotesk” type actually looks nice.

Some typeface names are humorous even if they were not intended to be so like “Zapf,” “Friz Quadrata,”“Bodoni Bold” and “Harry Heavy.”




[above] The varieties within each face, such as bold, italic and roman (i.e., not
italic) are fonts. Rockwell is a typeface. Rockwell bold is a font. Sometimes “font” is used to mean all of the varieties within a typeface (e.g., “The Rockwell font has 832 characters.”) — or even the typeface itself. The terms “font” and “typeface” seem to be merging.

Sometimes “font” is used for a very specific typeface description like “24 point Century
Gothic bold italic.”

Millions of people who probably never thought much about "typefaces" have to make daily decisions about "fonts" because of the ubiquity of computers, e-readers and tablets. “Font” takes up less space than “typeface,” and spatial efficiency is important on a small screen.

[below] Lots of software, including Microsoft Word and CorelDraw call typefaces “fonts.” It’s probably an irreversible trend. Adobe sometimes uses “font” to mean “typeface,” but also explains the difference between the terms.




[below] I was pleased to see that my Kindle Fire differentiates between “font” and
“typeface -- but the Nook and iPad use “font.”




A font family is a group of similar typefaces, presumably based on one face. For example, Arial and Helvetica are in theSwiss font family. Adobe uses the term more specifically: “font families are collections of fonts that share an overall appearance, and are designed to be used together, such as Adobe Garamond.”



[above] At one time, a character was the image of a letter, number, punctuation mark or symbol produced when a  piece of type made of metal or wood, with ink on it, came in contact with a sheet of paper. Today, a character is a bunch of data bits that describe the image to be produced, or the printed image, or the image on a screen.

"CPI"is the abbreviation for “Characters Per Inch” — a general indication or a precise
measurement of how many characters are put into a line of type.

A letterform is the shape of a letter, but it can have several more specific meanings:



[above] “Letterform” may mean the basic shape of a character, regardless of the typeface. You could say that “the letterform of a zero is oval.” Almost every version of the uppercase “A” has the same letterform: two converging vertical (or almost vertical) lines with a crossbar.



[above] Sometimes a minimalist “A”—in such faces as Pirulen, Mars, Mari and Mogzilla—will have no crossbar but is still recognizable as an “A” because no other letter
has a similar shape.




[above] The farther a letterform evolves from its traditional shape, the more likely it
is to be unrecognizable, or confused with another letter.



[above] “Letterform” may also mean the specific design
of a character, or characters, within a typeface. You could say that “the
lowercase letterforms in Calibri are much easier to read than in ITC Snap or Braggadocio.”



[above]The basic letterforms for the same character may be entirely different from one
face to another. The lowercase “a” in most faces is like the ones on the left, but others, both in script (cursiveand conventional (block letterfaces, resemble the handwritten “a.” Strangely, some dollar signs have one vertical stroke, but some have two.



[above] TIME OUT:  Sometimes an individual letter may be hard to identify, but it makes sense as part of a word — especially if viewed from a distance.

Glyph rhymes with “stiff” and is related to “hieroglyph” and comes from the Greek word for “engrave.” It may be used to mean the same thing as a character or a general letterform. I prefer to think of a glyph as a specific letterform — the shape that represents a character in a specific typeface.
-------------------


This material is adapted from my upcoming No More Ugly Books!









Friday, December 5, 2014

Authors can learn an important lesson from TV producers: REPRODUCE

All in the Family was a popular and important American TV show. It was produced by Norman Lear and on the air with new episodes from 1971 through 1979.

Shows spun off from it include:
Maude (1972–1978)
Good Times (1974–1979)
The Jeffersons (1975–1985)
Checking In (1981)
Archie Bunker's Place (1979–1983)
Gloria (1982–1983)
704 Hauser (1994)



Happy Days, created by Garry Marshall, originally aired 1974–1984 and led to:

Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983)
Blansky's Beauties (1977)
Mork and Mindy (1978–1982)
Out of the Blue (1979)
Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-1983)

Before "Days," Ronnie Howard played Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show. Ron is no longer acting, but he produces movies and has two human spinoffs who are actresses 


Law & Order, produced by Dick Wolf (originally aired 1990–2010) has given us:

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present)
Conviction (2006)
Law & Order: LA (2010–2011)
Deadline (2000–2001)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001–2011)
Crime & Punishment (2002–2004)
Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005–2006)
Paris enquêtes criminelles (2007–2008) (French adaptation of Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
Закон и порядок: Преступный умысел (2007–present) (Russian adaptation of Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
Закон и Порядок: Отдел Оперативных Расследований (2007–present) (Russian adaptation of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Law & Order: UK (2009–present)
Law & Order: Cape Town 

Dick Wolf just wrote his first novel. Detective Lenny Briscoe, played by Jerry Orbach (above), was on the show from 1992 to 2004 and appeared in three Law & Order spin-offs. Lenny/Jerry died while the show was still in production. Fred Thompson was a senator, then L&A DA Arthur Branch, and then failed to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Post-L&A, Jill Hennessy, Angie Harmon, Sam Waterston, Chris Noth and other actors found work on the screen.

So, what does this have to do with books?

Plenty.

Lots of books are parts of a series, including the well-known James Bond and Harry Potter dynasties.

But even books that are not parts of a fictional series can spin off other books.

My Become a Real Self Publisher was first published in 2009. It has led to at least SEVENTEEN spinoffs, and I'm not through spinning yet.












My first self-pubbed book was I Only Flunk My Brightest Students, published in 2008. It has led to at least six spinoffs.











Spinoffs have been an important part of authoring since the beginning. Homer did it, Shakespeare did it. The New Testament was a spinoff of the Old Testament. 

The words you've already written are some of your greatest assets. Look them over. Think about how you can modify them, repackage them, update them -- and make more money.

- - - 

After I uploaded this I discovered that Forbes recently published New Year's Resolutions for the Book Publishing Industry. The first one is "publishers should resolve to find new ways to develop more of the intellectual property they own." Forbes is right.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Don't pick a business name that seems like it's misspelled, or a name like another company's name


I received an email that said:

"Dear Publisher/Editor,

I would like to introduce TRENDSETTE PUBLICATION is a composition company from India doing Typesetting, Editing, Indexing, Cover design & On-Demand services for publishers. Our team has more than 10 years of experience and worked with various leading publishing companies around the globe.

We use MS-Word, LaTeX, InDesign & QuarkXpress for typesetting of books, journals and brochures. We can offer the best service and competitive market price always."

My immediate impression was that the company had misspelled its own name, and the company was really "Trendsetter Publications."

But before I made fun of the company, I did some research.

It turns out that I can't make fun of the company for misspelling its name and using awkward English.

HOWEVER, I can make fun of it for choosing a name very similar to the real "Trendsetter Publications," and using awkward English.

Lessons for today:
  1. Don't name your publishing company "Simon and Shoestore."
  2. Don't name your burger joint "Mick Donald's."
  3. Don't use the dot-net version of a website that already exists as a dot-com.
  4. If you want to sell editing services, make sure your promotional writing is error-free.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What can go wrong with a book? A lot can.


I once received what I honestly thought would be the last proof of an upcoming book.

The book has been gone through dozens (hundreds?) of times by yours truly and my editor and a picky nitpicker.

I'd carefully examined the MS Word doc, multiple generations of PDFs, and paper proofs printed by my local UPS store and by Lightning Source, which prints the "real books."

I know that no book can be perfect, but each time I read I find things that need to be fixed, that somehow had previously eluded six eagle eyes.

Here are some of the bloopers that plagued this book, and may be in yours. Many won't be noticed by readers, and one error per hundred pages seems to be an acceptable standard for major "trade" publishers. However, those of us who self-publish have an extra burden to make our books as good as possible because one bad book reflects badly on all self-pubbed books. I, of course have an extra extra burden, because I frequently criticize other books.

So, here's some of the stuff to watch out for, in no particular order:
  1. Sections of text that print in gray -- not black. This is generally invisible on a computer screen, but is noticeable on paper.
  2. Repeated words. Microsoft conveniently flags the repeats in red, but maybe the red should flash to attract my attention. A loud BEEP would be good, too.
  3. Right edges of text blocks that are ragged instead of flush.
  4. Words that are in my head but not printed on the page.
  5. Wrong fonts -- a particular problem when text is copied from the web or another document.
  6. Inconsistent style, such as 8PM on one page and 9:15 p.m. on another page. (I'm usually not guilty of this sin.)
  7. Oversize word spacing -- especially in justified narrow columns.
  8. Headers that should be bold or normal black, but are gray.
  9. Repetition of a phrase or thought a few pages after it first appears.
  10. Widows and orphans (generally not a problem for me).
  11. Drop caps in the wrong typeface, wrong size, or wrong position. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  12. Improper hyphenation.
  13. Inaccurate referrals, such as saying that something is on page 324 but it was moved to 326 -- or even deleted. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  14. Inaccurate index or table of contents, caused by moving or removing. (I did this in a previous book, but I hope not in this one).
  15. Flopped photos -- It's common to do a left-right reversal for aesthetic reasons, but don't let a clock, license plate or name necklace reads backwards. Also watch out for unconventional product appearances, such as a phone with a handset on the right side, or an old TV with knobs on the left. (I've never done this, but I've seen this).
  16. Tables and text boxes that slip out of position.
  17. Final lines of text that disappear from text boxes.
  18. Words that should have been deleted when a paragraph was rewritten -- but are still there.
I could go on, but the list could turn into a book. Actually, some of this is in an upcoming book:




I hope it doesn't have too many misteaks. Or mistakes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Studying math, English and culture at Chinese and Greek restaurants



I am an American Jew. Therefore, I eat a lot of Chinese food. It's the Eleventh Commandment.

After that brief introduction, it's time for some humor:
  • According to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5775, and according to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4711 (maybe). What did Jewish people eat for the first 1064 years until Chinese restaurants appeared?
  • Q: What do Jewish people do on Christmas? A: Go to a movie and eat Chinese food.
As an avid reader and language critic/cynic, I've spent a lot of time analyzing the text and math in Chinese restaurant menus.

When I worked in Manhattan, many small Chinese restaurants on the upper west side sold a large order of fried rice for $3.95. However, if you were willing to accept four chicken wings along with the same amount of rice, the price for the entire meal dropped to just $2.95.

It should be noted that in Greek-American diners the price of a slice of cheese can vary from a dime to a dollar or more, depending on what it is attached to.

My local Athenian Diner III offers "
Broiled London Broil." I guess that's better than boiled London Broil.

Greek-American diners tend to have many Jewish customers. Years ago my food-wise father warned me to never order chopped liver at a non-Jewish restaurant -- unless it was a Greek restaurant.  

I lived in Yonkers New York for 24 years (but for much of the time had a classier Scarsdale address). The nearby Seven Stars Diner always had fresh baked challah on the tables as a special treat for Jewish customers. During Passover, the restaurant manager ordered that matzoh be put in the bread baskets, too. The matzoh was 'polluted' by the challah -- but it was a nice gesture.

Another favorite restaurant in Yonkers, the Golden Wok, stated, "The order of eating in is much larger than the order of taking out." They also said," We can alter the spicy to suit your taste."

The Wok was owned by three brothers. Jerry split away from his brothers and opened a KOSHER Chinese restaurant about a mile north, planning to attract many observant Jewish eaters. His expectations were not met. Jerry prepared to do a big business on Friday nights. Friday nights are traditionally big money-makers for Chinese restaurants. Jerry didn't realize that observant Jews don't drive on Friday night -- the beginning of the Sabbath. Jerry gradually cut his staff, and then closed the restaurant and opened one on Long Island.

Many Chinese restaurants have trouble with English plurals and possessives. It's common to see "General Chicken" instead of "General Tso's Chicken" or "General's Chicken." If I don't want "General Chicken," could I get "Specific Chicken?" 

What should be plural nouns are often singular, like "direction to the restaurant." In the other direction, I've seen "beefs with broccoli."

"Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet" recently opened in Orange, Connecticut -- a few miles from my house. Part of its website was copied from another restaurant and states it is "the largest restaurant in Danville and surrounding area." There is no Danville near Orange.

The newspaper ad for the grand opening touted the restaurant as being the best "on the peninsula." The town of Orange is landlocked. It is not on a peninsula; but apparently some other restaurant is on a peninsula and the Orange restaurant copied its ad.

The menu includes "salmon fish." Apparently they have no salmon vegetables. (Some non-Chinese restaurants offer clam chowder soup.)

However, the food is excellent. The people are extremely nice. The selection is huge and you get a lot for your money. I'm a regular customer.

All the place needs is a good copyeditor.

However, because of my high regard for the Chinese people, I hereby grant a perpetual "pass" for imperfect menus and websites. If my stomach is happy, my brain will go along. A good chef is more important than a good writer.

Besides, If I had to write a menu in Chinese, it would be a disaster!