Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A few words about Chinese restaurants' English

I am an American Jew. Therefore, I eat a lot of Chinese food. It's the Eleventh Commandment.
As an avid reader and language critic/cynic, I've spent a lot of time analyzing the text and math in Chinese restaurant menus.

In many small Chinese restaurants on the upper west side of Manhattan, you can get a large order of fried rice for $3.95. However, if you are willing to accept four chicken wings along with the same amount of rice, the price for the entire meal drops to just $2.95.

One of my favorite restaurants, the Golden Wok, in Yonkers, New York, 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."

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?" 

I probably would not order "spicy cold children," "strange flavor chicken," "aunt eggplant," "saliva of a chicken product" or burned beef.

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 stated that 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.

However, the food is excellent. The people are extremely nice. The selection is huge and you get a lot for your money. I eat there often.

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!

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