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Jun 10, 2011 06:16 PM


Here's something of an odd question - does spotting a misspelling of a food item on a printed menu, sandwich board, etc. outside of a restaurant at which you've never eaten ever keep you from trying it out?

I've seen several spelling errors outside various places I've never tried along my travels of late. Some I take as proofreading oversights (e.g. misspelling "gyro" as "gryo") and some really have made me wonder enough to considering something else (e.g. misspellings such as "nocchi" or "appel pie".)

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  1. If misspellings on a board, or even on a printed menu, were to dissuade me from eating someplace I'd surely have missed an awful lot of really swell meals. One of the pleasantest dinners I had with my in-laws, just a year before Papa died, was at Restaurant Taix, a VERY old-school French place in LA, to which he had last gone in the '60s. It had obviously been an awfully long time since anyone who spoke French had been on staff, and while the food was quite good the menu was a French disaster. Everyone at the table but me was a fluent Francophone, and even I was catching some howlers. Our waiter (who didn't speak French either, though he was very sharp) took great delight in writing down our corrections and our often-ribald comments, which he promised to present to management the next day. As it happened, he intended to resign on that occasion as well ...

    1. On a Chinese takeout/ delivery menu, I am automatically suspicious if correct grammar and spelling ARE used.

      2 Replies
      1. re: LorenM

        when i lived in NYC i worked as an editor, and one day i joked that i was taking a solemn vow never to get takeout/delivery from a place with errors on the menu. well, it may have started as a joke, but guess who didn't order Chinese takeout even once in 5 years...

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          You must not like Chinese food at work or home......


      2. Do ethnic restaurant menus count?

        Sometimes the tell-tale sign of authenticity are misspellings.

        28 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          despite my earlier post, as the years have passed i've learned to be far more tolerant of errors on any menus that require translation from a language that uses an entirely different set of characters than ours...but it still really bothers me when i see misspellings on French, Spanish, Italian, American or Mexican menus. if you take pride in your business, pay a proofreader a few bucks to make sure you're representing yourself and your product accurately.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            >>>>if you take pride in your business, pay a proofreader a few bucks to make sure you're representing yourself and your product accurately.<<<<

            I used to edit and proof menus for a good Italian restaurant in exchange for food. What a great deal that was.

            1. re: Jay F

              sounds like it. i honestly considered going door-to-door offering my editing/proofing services to all the places whose menus needed work :)

              1. re: Jay F

                Wow- where do I sign? I want in on that action.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                What about pluralization? Italian restaurants are always charging me for ordering cannoli, and then they serve me only one. What a ripoff!

                1. re: Steve

                  seeing/hearing errors in pluralization and misuse of apostrophes drives me batty in ANY arena, not just on restaurant menus. i cringe when crostini or panini is used singularly, or when i hear or read "crostinis" or "paninis." frittata/frittate is a problem too...but hey, at least the menu doesn't offer "cannolis!"

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I'm a bit more forgiving with non-english words.

                    1. re: tommy

                      why? if a restaurant that serves "American" food offers a grilled cheese "sandwhich" or pie made with local "apple's," how is that any more egregious than an Italian restaurant screwing up the words i used in my example?

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Italian restaurants are in Italy. I'm guessing most of the rules of their language sorted out. Perhaps more so than English speaking countries.

                        1. re: tommy

                          Italian restaurants are in Italy.
                          you lost me there.

                          anyway, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. doesn't matter to me whether the restaurant is in Italy, Outer Mongolia, or the good 'ol US of A...if you're serving Italian food and the dishes are traditional staples of the cuisine, i personally don't think it's too much to ask that you use accurate terminology on your menu.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I guess I appreciate that people aren't as smart and worldly as you and me. And I don't get annoyed by that fact.

                            1. re: tommy

                              but that's why i said farther up-thread that i just think restaurants should have someone give the menu a once-over. i don't expect everyone to get it right. heck, i make my share of mistakes too...which is precisely why i always have another pair (or two) of eyes look over any professional documents i prepare.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                You are not talking about typos. You are talking about having an understanding of a foreign language.

                                Regardless, I'm happy and smart and not bothered by it.

                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              it is accurate. it is accurate in english - the language the menu is in.

                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            because words and the rules change when they migrate from language to another. in italian, to stay with your example, panini is a plural. but the singular sandwich in english is called a panini.

                            the word banana is neither english nor german in origin - yet you are probably not offended by either "bananas" or "bananen" as the plural.

                          3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            If you want to lessen the discomfort, think of them as English words, borrowed from Italian, but now subject to English grammatical rules.

                            When Italian's borrow English words, what rules do they use for plurals?

                            1. re: paulj

                              Italian's or Italians? (Sorry, after reading this thread I couldn't resist ;)

                              1. re: gaffk

                                As long as it isn't pronounced Eye-talians, or worse, Eye-talian's...

                              2. re: paulj

                                The rule in Italian, not always observed, is not to change the borrowed word. Two weekend (pronounced weekEND), several hamburger (pronounced ahmBOORgur). Euro is not supposed to have a plural in any language, but English-language editors quickly decided it could be euros in nontechnical material. In Italy it is written euro but on the street one hears the occasional "euri". French is as bad as English with les médias and spaghettis.

                              3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I'm starting to notice "cannolis" on numerous menus.

                                Next time, maybe I should ask for a cannolis.

                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              (This is meant to be in reply to goodhealthgourmet.)

                              You raise a question I have been asking for years, and I would dearly love to hear some theories or real answers why restaurants seem to think paying a competent translator, editor, or proofreader to polish the menu is an unnecessary expense, when they will spend a fortune on ephemera, such as cut flowers, and take care of every other detail of the establishment.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                Hear, hear. I specialize in translations for restaurants, catering companies, etc. - mostly food-centered / and/or related stuff, and you'd be surprised -- or not -- how many restos will try to save a buck (and it really doesn't cost *that* much) by having someone 'in house' translate their website or menu, with pathetic results.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  Yes, I'm in Italy, a hard-working writer/translator, mostly about food, and I see these in-house translations all the time. Of course, the "professional" translations aren't much better (they almost never ask ME to do it). And, as you say, the price difference between what a printer provides (the source of many bad translations) and even the in-house (possibly provided by an English-speaking apprentice cook, who is probably not a word-person as well as a cook) is not that much. Are they SO miserly or do they not know the difference or do they just not care? Oh well, these are rhetorical questions. The answer is all of the above.

                            3. re: ipsedixit

                              Ethnic menus (mainly from countries that use different alphabetic or character sets) for me are different. I figure there's going to be many variations in spelling of those words when translated to English and I just leave it at that.

                              It would be interesting if someone who knew Japanese script, for instance, and saw a bunch of typos using that script on a Japanese restaurant menu, would be put off by that.

                              1. re: josquared

                                Agreed. The difference between this scenario and the one I'm assuming the OP is referring to is usually a looser grasp of English/difficulty in transliteration rather than a looser grasp of the given culinary terminology.

                            4. Are you confusing *misspellings* with *typos*......that actually may have been proofread first, but missed entirely? Or do you consider there is not a difference?

                              If I applied the same questions and standards to family or friends for invited dinners at their homes ......I bet that would have meant I should not have attended one holiday meal or special gathering in the last 50 years.

                              There's an argument here, where as to which is correct in a restaurant name *Grill* or *Grille*......

                              There's also the argument of which is correct for naming a restaurant, or referring to it. Using the fictitious place as an example:

                              @ Smith opposed to @ Smith's Restaurant

                              43 Replies
                              1. re: fourunder

                                It does make me really suspicious. If an owner spends $$$ to have the menu professionally printed, why not have your college student/server proof read it first? I mean, it's like the 'window' to your establishment! Zero pride. Italian place at the Jersey shore listed "tira mia Sue". Probably made that with spongecake and cream cheese. Also "garlic nots". Yeah, kind of pisses me off.

                                1. re: chefdaddyo

                                  How about this? Let's use this as an example. As far as as I know, Peter Luger has no misspellings or typos on their menu or signage.

                                  Let's say you or someone else make reference to Peter Luger in your comments here or elsewhere where the world can read it......but you reference as *Peter Luger's* is the best or your favorite. Does that make the comments suspicious or that opinion any less credible?

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    Let's say you or someone else make [sic] reference to Peter Luger in your comments here or elsewhere where the world can read it......but you [sic] reference as *Peter Luger's* is the best or your favorite. Does that make the comments suspicious or that opinion any less credible?

                                    Good thing we are only talking about spelling and not grammar, eh? :-)

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Proper grammar in above my capabilities......or even English, for that matter, as evidence by my history here.

                                    2. re: fourunder

                                      What's wrong with Peter Luger's ? The apostrophe indicates possession, which should be correct here, as it is the steakhouse of Peter Luger. There isn't more than one 'Peter Luger' (the man) so Peter Lugers wouldn't be right. Keeping it non-possessive doesn't sound right for a restaurant named after a person either, you might say you are going to Nobu for dinner and keep it singular non-possessive, but if you are going to Morimoto, calling it Morimoto's should be just as acceptable, as it is his restaurant.

                                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                        Why wouldn't you say Nobu's?

                                        The restaurant is called Peter Luger. That's the way I say it and type it. Not to mention the man is long gone and it's not his restaurant.

                                        1. re: tommy

                                          Actually, Nobu was a bad example, I didn't realize it was named after someone, so, you're right, Nobu's would probably work. Take 'The French Laundry' as a better example, you wouldn't say you were going to eat at 'The French Landry's' but eating at Alain Ducasse's sounds just as right as eating at Alain Ducasse.

                                          Of course, then you have Ruth's Chris throwing a big old wrench into things. I realize that the name came about by someone names Ruth buying someone named Chris's steakhouse, but 'Ruth's Chris' just sounds like an abomination of language. 'Ruth Chris's' probably wouldn't be correct since there was never a Ruth Chris, and 'Ruth's Chris's' is just too difficult to say.

                                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                            I don't put possessives on restaurant names, which I think was the point being made by others and me. Peter Luger. Nobu. Ruth's Chris. Alain Ducasse. All correct, and all more pleasing to my ear.

                                            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                              Although I know how the chain came to be named, I declined an invitation to dinner at Ruth's Chris SOLELY because of the awkward punctuation and iffy grammar. The name just sounds so wrong that it made me doubt I'd like their food. I've learned to trust my gut instincts, pun intended.

                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                The possessive form doesn't sound "just as right" if that's not the restaurant's name. Another personal peeve.

                                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                                  ugh, yes. I get so sick of hearing "Target's - Walmart's - Costco's" etc.,e tc., etc., I want to just shriek.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    It really bothers you in daily life?

                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                      We all have our pet peeves. I have to fight back the urge to punch someone in the face every time I hear someone use the term 'forever home' (usually used in reference to adopting animals, i.e. 'Help give this 8 year old Chihuahua a forever home', it's not fracking forever, it's probably for another two years until the darn thing dies).

                                                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                        Punching someone might lead to unwanted consequences.

                                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                          That is pretty corny indeed. Haven't heard that one.

                                                        2. re: tommy

                                                          Not to answer for sunshine842, but that question could be asked of everything on this thread (but then, what's the point?). As Tute says, we all have our peeves.

                                                          Does it bother me as much as, you know, the income gap between rich and poor? No. Am I lucky to have such problems? Sure.

                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                            You must *really* want to punch rich people. LOL!

                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                              Come to think of it, I totally do! (Except the ones who might whisk me off to Nobu or Peter Luger.)

                                                        3. re: sunshine842

                                                          Are you sure you aren't hearing "Targets - Walmarts - Costco(e)s"? :)

                                                          How many Targets are there in your area? What do you think of Walmart's price on .... ?

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            I'm with sunshine842. This is also one of my (admittedly many) pet peeves. Just this week at work I asked someone where she bought the birthday cake we were eating and she said, "I got it at Costco's." Ugghhh.

                                                            And as an aside, while not as good as homemade, it was better than Whole Foods!

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              No, it's not being used as a plural, nor is it being used as in "Walmart's price". It's used like "I bought it at Walmart's, or "Costco's has xxx" or "Target's is running a sale on yyy" Ugh.

                                                              I live where there AREN'T any of those stores around, so it's now a non-issue. (no, I didn't move to get away from it)

                                                              and is there some reason why everybody jumped on me? Tatamagouche made the point; I was just agreeing.

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                that is the possesive as in walmart's price... the implied word is store or place - i bought it at walmart's store -

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  I went to K-Mart's. I'm going to Kings'. I'm getting chicken from Stop and Shop's. I love Burger King's.


                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                    ridiculous is assuming language is a static thing, only practiced in some pure form. Even french, which attempts to curtail vitality in language with its L'Académie Française, cannot freeze language from the influence of the street. The power of english has always been its scope and mutability. hamstringing it does no one any good

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      I should clarify: the person sounds ridiculous saying that.

                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Don't take the replies personally. You just stated the peeve most forcefully (' I want to just shriek').

                                                                  Since the practice is widespread, a descriptive linguist would say it is a real part of the English language, at least as spoken around here. It's not just an error or 'bad English'.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Whether or not the error is understandable or widespread, it's still an error when it comes to a restaurant's name.

                                                                    My last name is Tobias. It's pronounced with a long i, but I live in a region where there are lots of Spanish speakers. They are naturally inclined to pronounce it Toh-BEE-ahs. I understand that, but that doesn't make it my name. Same goes for restaurants whose names do not end in 's. If it's Peter Luger, it's Peter Luger, not Peter Luger's.

                                                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                      Tobias is pronounced the same in German: ToBEEas. Maybe English pronounces it the "wrong" way? '-P

                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                        Ha, maybe—but the point is it's a name, a proprietary thing, and names are different from common nouns in that sense. What the namee says goes.

                                                                      2. re: tatamagouche

                                                                        Though the Spanish pronunciation is closer to the Greek original Τοβίας. What you call the 'long i' is a diphthong that's a product of the Great Vowel Shift in English. Your preferred pronunciation is 5-6 centuries old (assuming English roots), but the other is 20 centuries old. :)

                                                                        How a personal name is pronounced in another language depends on personal preferences and sometimes comes down to practical factors. Some insist on retaining the name and pronunciation, others find it more convenient to use a transliteration or even translation. I have no problem with a Spanish speaker calling me Pablo. For my last I'd go with a transliteration, pronounced as though it were written in Spanish. It would be just too much of a pain to insist on the English pronunciation. Plus the English is itself a variation on an Danish original (courtesy of US immigration officials a century ago).

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          As you say, though, personal names involve personal preferences. And the logical assumption to start with is that the namee would be prefer to be called the name that he/she/it has chosen, put on signage and business cards, e.g., Nobu, not Nobu's. (I would certainly never make the assumption, in the reverse scenario, that I could call a Spanish speaker named Pablo "Paul".)

                                                                          The linguistic insights are fascinating and no doubt correct, but I nonetheless object to the notion that a person's collective memory gives them license to get names wrong.

                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Could it be that 'Targets' (with or without the apostrophe) is neither plural nor possessive?

                                                                      I don't think I'd use it, but I can imagine a person who is used to stores named for their owner being in the habit of adding that 's'. Joe's Hardware, Marshall Field's, Tom's five and dime. Is "Marshall Field's" possessive or a contraction for "Marshall Field & Company"? Macy's full name as "R. H. Macy & Co., Inc". The parent corporation for Target as Dayton-Hudson Corporation, commonly called Dayton's.

                                                                      So people who use words like Target's may have retained a memory of days when stores commonly were named for people. It does not have to be a personal memory; it could be a practice they learned from their parents. I'd also like to know if this a regional practice (e.g. small town South v big city NE?).

                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                    This is a mandatory rule in "How to speak Buffalo (NY)": all restaurant names end in 's, including Olive Garden's and Red Lobster's.

                                                                    I finally figured out that a coworker was going to a very nice Italian eatery called Mangia, but she pronounced it man-jahs.

                                                                    1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                      My dad (Illinois, Indiana) always did the 's on grocery stores. He was well-travelled and spoke with people from all over the world on a daily basis in his work. But the grocery store was "Cub's".

                                                          2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                            but if you are going to Morimoto, calling it Morimoto's should be just as acceptable, as it is his restaurant.
                                                            but he didn't name the restaurant Morimoto's. do you call his Beverly Hills restaurant Matsuhisa's? or refer to Daniel in NYC as Daniel's?

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              I wouldn't have a problem with Matsuhisa's or Daniel's in NYC. Places named after a person just sound more natural in the possessive.

                                                              That jewelry store Jared drives me nuts with the name 'Jared - The Galleria of Jewelry'. It should be 'Jared's Galleria of Jewelry'. The first sounds pretentious and wrong, the second naturally rolls off the tongue. If a place doesn't manage to name itself in the way I feel is correct, I have no problem correcting it for them whenever I mention it.

                                                              1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                If a place doesn't manage to name itself in the way I feel is correct, I have no problem correcting it for them whenever I mention it.
                                                                wow. okay then.

                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                  You, of course, are free to call it whatever you like. If you prefer Peter Luger to Peter Luger's, I have no qualms with that. I just don't feel it's inappropriate to say Peter Luger's as it is (or at least was) Peter Luger's restaurant. I wouldn't go to the management and tell them their sign is wrong, they can call it whatever they want, but as a customer I can refer to it as I like as well (within reason).

                                                                  1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                                    The full name, as shown on the sign and website is
                                                                    Peter Luger Steak House, not Peter Luger's Steak House. It may sound better to add a The at the start. However, as I noted with some well known department stores, it is common practice to shorten a formal company name to something like Lugar's. That 's', at least in the spoken language, does not necessarily indicate possession.

                                                                    We are all balancing technically correct ways of saying things with what sounds natural to our ears. Sometimes the correct way sounds pretentious, unusual, or just plain awkward.

                                                                    English speakers have always changed names to make them shorter or more 'comfortable'. I just learned that 'Boston' is short for St. Botolph's stone (or town), the original name of a small town in Lincolnshire, and site of one of many churches dedicated to this saint.

                                                      2. re: fourunder

                                                        Fun discussion so far :)

                                                        The "gryo" example I used originally I figured was a typo, as it was on a sandwich board but on a page that had been produced by a print shop of some sort.

                                                        The other two I mentioned were from a sandwich board I used to pass from one particular place from work to my transit stop. The specials of the day were always written in chalk, and it seemed like there would be one or two misspelled food items per week. Interestingly enough, after a few months of this, the place announced they had acquired a new chef and the spelling errors on the sandwich board ceased soon afterward.

                                                        I did see an interesting one today - cherry stands have been popping up left and right on the roadsides near my home of late. Most of them had handwritten signs simply saying "Cherries" or "Sweet Cherries", but one of them had a sign saying "Rainer Cherries." Ironically, that misspell almost encouraged me to stop my car and try a few. :)

                                                        1. re: josquared

                                                          Be sure to duck when the cherries rain down.

                                                        2. re: fourunder

                                                          A typo is a misspelling, no matter where it comes from or who missed it

                                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                                            but at least a typo is usually made by someone who ackshully knows better, but just managed to fat-finger the keys.


                                                        3. Suggested reading
                                                          "From greasy spoon menus to national park signs..."