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Spelling & grammar errors on menus

Do they bother you? Do they diminish your confidence in the chef? Do you not care what they call it, as long as it tastes good?

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  1. It drives me wild. I've even thought of starting a menu proofreading business. It makes me wonder if they know what they're doing.

    18 Replies
    1. re: sr44

      There's a place near me that has a menu that is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Today they had a sign out front advertising brunch with "mimosa's". One of the dishes was "samon." If I were the owner/manager I'd be beside myself, but clearly either no one cares or knows any better. It looks terrible and does not inspire confidence.

      1. re: medrite

        reminds me of the server who apologized for the misprint on the specials menu... "and we also have 'samon' in an X sauce... and i just wanted to point it out because it is misspelled. nope saLmon is not a new kind of fish, just a printer's error. so, any questions?"

        1. re: Emme

          that cracks me up -- the waiter's saying "the printer's an idiot" without really saying it...and letting you know that he's a little more on the ball than that.

          (and quite possibly that he's been asked that question a few times on this shift...)

          1. re: sunshine842

            So, did you order the fish and have Samon Enchanted Evening?

            1. re: Tripeler

              you may see your trout love across a codded roo-oooom.

              1. re: sunshine842

                That was pretty funny! Mine was just from the Old Jokes Home.

              2. re: Tripeler


                the bf at the time ordered it. before the waiter came over, he kept saying he was going to ask if the kitchen would be willing to substitute the samon with salmon. he didn't. and when the waiter came back to see how things were, he told her that samon surprisingly tastes a lot like salmon...blank look momentarily, then: you know, i've heard that a lot tonight. must be related or something. glad you're enjoying...
                i was mortified, then more amused... sigh.

        2. re: sr44

          "It drives me wild. I've even thought of starting a menu proofreading business. It makes me wonder if they know what they're doing."

          ME TOO!!!!

          1. re: sr44

            The idea of a menu proofreading business is great. However, these restaurants have to care about these errors. They just might not care enough--especially if it means paying someone to proofread and correct a menu.

            1. re: Wawsanham

              As someone who specializes in menu translations (GER-ENG), I can only second this. While many of my customers are more than happy to have a perfect translation, I'd say that an overwhelming majority of restaurant owners are perfectly happy with a sub-par translation one of their waiters or staff did. For free, is why.


              1. re: linguafood

                and THAT answers the crucial question that had been nagging me about doing similar work in France.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Virtually all the restaurants I know in France have menus only in French.

                  And they are mainly in the Pas de Calais region which has very many English speakers visiting. That said, I don't know anywhere in Kent that offers a menu in French. Thirty four kilometres, eh? Such a big distance.

                  1. re: Harters

                    even in my little town, where we are the ONLY American family, most of the restaurants will come over with a one-off English menu -- it's sweet of them to try, but usually the translations are so horrible that I end up sneaking a look at my French menu anyway.

                    The English menu isn't posted outside -- it's usually a quick pdf printed off 2 or 3 at a time and stuck into a page protector.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    I do this kind of work in France, Belgium and Italy and do pretty well out of it. A lot of restaurant owners are crying out for a translation of their menu which explains things in more detail than their French original for added explanations to anglophone tourists of terms a francophone diner might take for granted.

                    1. re: feggy

                      In Italy? Where in Italy? I don't think I have ever seen an error-free English menu in Italy, and have rarely seen even a passably decent one. High-end restaurants pay more attention to (and spend more money on) the flowers on the table than the quality of the translation. Many restaurateurs entrust the job to intern chefs from the US, not grasping that cooking and translating are two different skills. There is a general ignorance afoot. People don't get it that (1) a good translation may not cost any more than a bad one, (2) it isn't enough to be a native speaker (though that would already be ahead of many); you need a professional, ideally with specialization in food; (3) patrons are distracted by laughing at your silly mistakes and don't even notice the costly orchids.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        I've worked mainly in Sardegna, but also in Rome and parts of Bari. My translations are just a small drop in the ocean I'm sure! I am a food/wine/diet/nutrition specialist translator and given that poorly translated menus are a personal bugbear of mine, I'm always on the look out for work in that area!

                        1. re: feggy

                          I would love to know more, and your coordinates, but don't know what kind of space the moderators grant for establishing channels of communication. In any case, my CH profile contains a website with email link.

                  3. re: linguafood

                    Google Translate can often get one into "the ball park," but beyond that, the patron is on their own.


              2. For English-language menus here in Tokyo, this is pretty much the norm.
                However, the Japanese-language menus are usually error-free.

                1. I'm torn -- it drives my inner pedant utterly bonkers.

                  But it is also a reassuring sign that the menu was created by real people, not marketing teams with research and slick printers.

                  (and yes - English translations at all but the biggest tourist traps are always a good giggle)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    You can't assume that marketing teams with research and slick printers can create error-free English.

                    1. re: Wawsanham

                      Marketing teams with research and slick printers that STILL turn out error-laden menus would prompt me to walk out.

                      I'm willing to overlook a few minor errors-- because I've done catalogs and flyers and ad copy...and sometimes, no matter how many times you read it, how many other people you have read it, and how many smell chuckers you sic on the piece, once in a while, something slips right past it all.

                      But a chain (large or small) that can't turn out a reasonably correct menu isn't where I would choose to eat.

                  2. My written English is not the best you'll ever encounter. In spite of being a published author, I struggle with it and always need others to read anything of importance for me.

                    So, yes, I sort of expect restaurants will make an effort to have their menus written in the correct form, as it's part of their marketing. But it's not something I have a real problem with if they don't. What does irritate me is to see a menu written in "proper" English and then see the odd foreign word thrown in for no good reason. We were at a small bistro near home a few weeks back and saw that a dish was going to include a "navet". Why use a French word? What's the problem with calling it a "turnip"? Now, I knew it was a turnip because I speak a bit of French but I'll bet many customers that night wouldnt have had a clue.

                    I'm never fussed when visiting a foreign country and see errors in the English language version of the menu. I always remember that there will be almost no places in my country that would bother to offer a menu in other than English.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Harters

                      until it reaches that point that you just ask for the local-language menu, because the translation is so bad that it's just shy of incomprehensible...

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Our all-time favourite was an offering in Mallorca of:

                        "Grill a dried brick pork"

                        Castilian version confirmed this was a pork kebab.

                        1. re: Harters

                          "lawyer salad" is a regular offering all over France.

                          ("Avocat" is the French word for *both* "lawyer" and "avocado" -- as if that very juxtaposition wasn't funny enough, it's astonishing how many restaurants pick the wrong option. I also have a photo of a menu that, for the translation of AAAAA Andouillette de Troyes, states "don't ask - you won't like it" and on the same page, offers a half-roasted chicken.)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Assuming it's basically the same as Andouillete de Cambrai, then they'd be right. It's one of the most vile things that I've ever put in my mouth.

                            1. re: Harters

                              It is -- but the translation makes me (and my students) laugh.

                      2. re: Harters

                        A navet is probably more expensive than a turnip in the US--the same for polenta vs. "cornmeal" or "empanada" vs. meat/cheese pie, and many more.

                        1. re: Wawsanham

                          I would expect to pay less for an "empanada" than for a meat pie.

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            Because "ethnic" food (or non-Caucasian/non-Western European food) is supposed to be always cheaper than Caucasian/Western European food? ;-P :-D
                            (note smilies)

                            1. re: huiray

                              Yes, as commanded world-wide by God and the US Constitution.

                        2. re: Harters


                          My written English usually starts out pretty well, but after I declare Wine-Thirty, I hav noticd it fals apart, jus a bit...


                        3. Drives me nuts as well.
                          Most common mistake seems to be 'caesar' in many different wrong ways.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger


                            Anytime I see "Ceasar Salad" I want to scream – then take out my pen and correct it on the menu. (I have actually done this at least once when I just could not stop myself) I like it greatly when I see "Cæsar Salad", rather than just "Caesar Salad", on a menu. :-)

                            1. re: huiray

                              The Joy of Ligatures, the sequel to The New Yorker magazine's The Joy of Diæreses.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                Once, in Indonesia, I had a really bad case of diæreses, but with medication, managed to survive.


                              2. re: huiray

                                Why not use 'Cesare', no doubt the form of the name given to Cardini when he was born in Italy, or 'Cesar', as he probably was called in Tijuana?

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Good point.

                                  Still, the name has entered into the food lexicon as something that is extrapolated to the Latin form of the name - so the spelling then should be "Cæsar" or "Caesar", not "Ceasar", the last of which is just plain wrong.

                            2. I find it amusing - Mrs Porker and I get a few chuckles out of it. It does seem more prevalent on Chinese menus. One of my favorites was "Human Beef" (Hunan). Very often see "chiken". One diner had "clams on tost".

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: porker

                                Yes, I've seen that typo too ;)

                                I find them amusing ... a friend who was also a writer and I used to have an informal competition to find the first error on the menu.

                              2. Depends on the restaurant, I think some of them do it on purpose to look more homey.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: redfish62

                                  I was was charged with writing the specials board in a big gastro pub in a coastal town some years back. Was told to put in one or two intentional mistakes - scalops with one L, a misplaced apostrophe etc. The owner was convinced it made customers read the specials board more closely and made them more likely to order from the specials rather than the regular menu!

                                  1. re: feggy

                                    I used to give the blackboard specials to the staff verbally. Oy.
                                    2 standouts:
                                    I had a soup of the day which I described as Chesapeake Bay Chowder. It wound up on the blackboard as Cheapskate Bay Chowder.
                                    Another started as Hand Rubbed Black Angus.... It ended up (I swear this is true) Hand Rubbed Black Anus.
                                    I wrote down the specials after that one and gave the little piece of paper to the staff.

                                    1. re: porker

                                      LOL -- I think if a server had given me those options, I'd have been looking around for the hidden camera.

                                      1. re: porker

                                        Somehow, I am very glad that I missed both of those "specials."

                                        Still, fodder for a ton of off-color jokes, but that was business!


                                      2. re: feggy

                                        Did it work?

                                        Personally speaking, I find it sad that someone would intentionally want to portray themselves as uneducated.

                                        1. re: feggy

                                          I would have said "ok sure" and then written it properly - not going to look like an idiot for anyone or any reason. Have some pride already!

                                        2. re: redfish62

                                          Ah, "homey." Though from the Deep South, I cringe at menus, that try to get "homey," with some odd dialect. Now, back in high school, I read a lot of Eudora Welty, who was a master of Southern dialect. James Lee Burke does a good job too. Still, I do not want it on my menu, or issued, with forced pronunciation, from my server. Just does not wash for me, at a restaurant.


                                        3. The inappropriate use of quotation marks and apostrophes creates unnecessary visual noise for me, the visual equivalent of a high frequency sound in the ear.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            That bad, huh? It must be unbearable to view an internet discussion board.

                                            1. re: FrankJBN

                                              It can be. But I tend to avoid boards or posts or comments where it's a common issue. A menu, however, is something I have to read before I can order something.

                                            2. re: Karl S

                                              Yes - I hate this! I once saw a sign which read:

                                              Hot "Fresh" Rotisserie Chickens

                                              So, not really fresh then?

                                              1. re: feggy

                                                I'm guessing whoever wrote it thought the quotes emphasized the "Fresh"?
                                                Actually quotes on any word there is amusing, especially so if it was Hot Fresh Rotisserie "Chickens"

                                                1. re: porker

                                                  Yes, obviously a case of thinking quotation marks are for emphasis, very funny though.

                                                  Have also seen "Sunday" Roast. but when my dining companion requested this on a Wednesday she was met with blank stares.

                                                  1. re: porker

                                                    Guess that would translate to "near" chickens? Pigeons, perhaps?


                                              2. If we're talking about a translated menu or an ethnic restaurant where the owners may not be proficient in English, then no, it may be amusing or confusing but I am not irritated. However, in any other case, yes, it tees me off royally. If a restaurant cannot bother to use a spellchecker on their printed material or go to the terrible bother of having a real person proof-read I do wonder about their atttention to detail in areas that I cannot see. The menu is the restaurant's public face and if the owners don't care enough about that, what do they actually care about?

                                                The website of a new (to our area) for-profit, late-night advertising culinary school is riddled with misspellings, all of them food related. Would you trust a *school* that apparently isn't adequately familiar with their own jargon words? It's too sad to even be funny.

                                                1. On an "authentic" English pub menu here in Las Vegas: "Potato and Leak Soup"

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Steve Green

                                                    This may not be at all good, Steve.

                                                    In British English, "to take a leak" is to urinate.

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      So too on this side of the pond.

                                                    2. re: Steve Green

                                                      Perhaps that's not an error, but rather an honest warning.

                                                      1. re: Steve Green

                                                        Better than 'Pee Soup'. Or maybe not....

                                                      2. Honestly, I haven't noticed this to be all that common. In recollection, it seems to me to be so uncommon as to approach rare.. When I do note such errors, they are mostly just good for a laugh.

                                                        1. Thankfully I do not see this often, but when I do it really bothers me and I would dearly love to correct the error. Those I have seen include "tomatoe's" and "potatoe". That sort of thing.

                                                          1. As someone who actually *did* make it their business, I'm quite happy about this.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              That is so crazy. I can't believe that there is a whole profession of people who just translate menus! Really wild!

                                                              1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                Of course not. But most translators are specialized in certain fields.

                                                                I don't exclusively translate menus. Nobody can live on that.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  I have been translating from Japanese to English for about 25 years here in Tokyo. These days, you wouldn't believe the variety of things I have to translate to continue making a living. However, when a client says they "can't tell it is a translation" is when I think I have done my best job.

                                                                  My favorite thing to do is menus (Japanese food is often quite challenging to make it sound delicious in English) but what I enjoy doing most is writing the three lines of copy on cans of beer, which really isn't translation.

                                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                                    "I can't tell it is is a translation" is indeed a high compliment!

                                                                    Oh, do tell me you write beer copy with sly little jokes...

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      No jokes in the beer copy. I do most of the English on Sapporo cans, and they look at everything very carefully. I like beer, so this is a fun job to do.

                                                                    2. re: Tripeler

                                                                      Yeah, business has been slowing down, for sure. I was lucky to snag two books last year, but even that only goes so far.

                                                                      I *really* enjoy translating menus/catering offers, etc. - I can do them incredibly fast, and, since I charge per word, make a good chunk in little time.

                                                              2. It drives me nuts, especially the egregious use of quotation marks ("cooked to order!") and apostrophes with plurals (heirloom tomatoe's).

                                                                I don't nitpick like this at small places run by immigrants with limited English skills. The place across the street from me has "Thai dumping" on the menu and that's fine. On the other hand, I was recently at a place that fancied itself pretty upscale (its last chef is currently on Bravo's Top Chef Masters) and I could barely get through the drink menu, what for all the listings of "bourban" and "angastura" bitters. Really? Not one person proofread this? Or do they just not care? After the meal I had, I was inclined to believe the latter.

                                                                1. Like fingernails on a blackboard! My personal choice for a Special Place in Hell is: sauteed in white wine. Aarrrgggghhh!

                                                                  I was a chef/instructor for some years and drilled it into my students that sloppy menus translate to patrons as "sloppy kitchen". As a group, chefs are *Creative Spellers*. Spelchek is not always your friend -- you don't want to know what it does to 'shiitake'. I suggested using Food Lovers Companion for spelling.

                                                                  Edit: this is only for native English speakers writing menus in English. I'll cut anyone a lot of slack trying to do this in another language (especially since I once asked a butcher for a 'gigolo' instead of a 'gigot').

                                                                  65 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Sherri

                                                                    "sauteed in white wine"

                                                                    No diacritical mark? A special place in hell for lacking a typeface? Or is it that one sautes, then adds wine? (I don't have easy access toan é myself)

                                                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                      It is not possible to saute in a water-based liquid.
                                                                      (I do not have the ability to add accent marks to my typing. Mea culpa)

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          That's on a Bill Gates box.

                                                                          On a Mac:
                                                                          Option+e, then letter of your choice.
                                                                          e.g.: option+e, then e = é
                                                                          e.g.: option+e, then a = á (which does not exist in French, but exists in other languages)

                                                                          For accent grave: Option+`, then letter of your choice.
                                                                          e.g. option+`, then a = à

                                                                          See this for others: http://www.fcgw.org/Accents.html

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            Alt + 0233

                                                                            Doesn't produce anything on mine, just tried.

                                                                            1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                              You need to do the numbers on your numeric keypad (on the right side of a full keyboard) with the keypad in "number lock" mode. Oh, also continuously hold down the Alt key while typing the numbers on the numeric keypad.

                                                                              Maybe try the code given in the link I gave in my post above instead? (maybe it isn't 0233...I can't test it as I'm not on a PC)

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                Sauté --thank you! You've just changed my life. sauté sauté sauté Hooray huiray!

                                                                                1. re: Sherri


                                                                                  ...and if you want to do this on a smartphone, look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89#C...

                                                                                    1. re: Sherri

                                                                                      > Sauté --thank you! You've just changed my life. sauté sauté sauté
                                                                                      Hooray huiray!

                                                                                      Hooré hooré!

                                                                              2. re: Sherri

                                                                                Ah, I had to think about that one at first. Of course what you say makes sense, but I'm just so used to seeing the incorrect phrasing.

                                                                                1. re: Sherri

                                                                                  But this thread is about spelling and grammar errors… Or at least it was. Now it's going be about "au jus", like 79% of all current threads on Chowhound.

                                                                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                    ???????????? I don't understand your comment to me since I did not mention "au jus". Would you explain, please.

                                                                                    1. re: Sherri

                                                                                      I think DD might mean that the fact that one cannot sauté in water has nothing to do with grammar or spelling, which is the title of this thread. Slightly OT, IHO.


                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                        And also that the OP asked about the effects on potential customers of spelling/grammar errors, not "hey everyone post a menu error you've seen". There are already several threads like that, for example:

                                                                                        Amusing menu gaffes - what's yours?

                                                                                        Worst menu translation ever?

                                                                                        And there has already been at least one long thread about whether people choose to avoid restaurants that have misspelled menus:


                                                                                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                          From my post re: the OP's question: "I was a chef/instructor for some years and drilled it into my students that sloppy menus translate to patrons as "sloppy kitchen". As a group, chefs are *Creative Spellers*. Spelchek is not always your friend -- you don't want to know what it does to 'shiitake'. I suggested using Food Lovers Companion for spelling. "

                                                                                          Edit: I was interrupted by a phone call and hit the 'reply' button in error. To continue:
                                                                                          DD, I appreciate that hijacking a thread is bad form and did not think I did that. If I did, I apologize. My students were some of the worst spellers that I have ever run across; Creative Spellers is my pet name for them because it is kinder than the truth. I had one young man use four different spellings of 'cilantro' on the same menu and not understand why that was a big deal. Later, he was hired at a luxe inn in the hills of Montecito CA where proper spelling was mandated. During his tenure there, I received regular phone calls from him to check his spelling.

                                                                                          So for me, spelling and grammar do count on a menu.

                                                                                          1. re: Sherri

                                                                                            Don't worry, I read all that the first time, and it is relevant. In an ideal world, a restaurant should strive for flawlessness everywhere, both in the cooking and in all aspects of the presentation. In the real world, restaurants have limited resources, and I'd prefer for them to put their efforts into the cooking, even if this means scrawling the menu on the wall at the last minute with no spell-checking. I think that the idea that a sloppy menu indicates a sloppy kitchen is probably as reliable as the idea that a perfect menu indicates perfect cooking.

                                                                                            Sorry about the "au jus" comment, which was in reaction to the way this sub-thread seems to be headed. I absolutely don't think you hijacked the thread; my apologies for suggesting that! But I am afraid that you may have opened up the floodgates to hundreds of drive-by postings with everyone's personal nominations for a "Special Place in Hell"…

                                                                                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                              some of the most outstanding meals I've ever had were in little places with no paper menu at all -- the only choices were written on a blackboard on the wall.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Same here. Even better are those places with no menu whatsoever - you are just told what is fresh that day. I see this often in rural areas in Europe especially.

                                                                                                1. re: chefathome

                                                                                                  and why I will almost always choose whatever the daily special is -- whether there's a printed menu or not.

                                                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  Isn't this as far off-topic as "au jus"?

                                                                                                  1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                                    no further off-topic than crabbing about it more than two years after it was posted.

                                                                                            2. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                              I love the rahoi link - I laughed and laughed and laughed the first time I read it.

                                                                                      2. re: Sherri

                                                                                        I don't know - you sauté some veal, you throw in some white wine - does the sautéing cease?

                                                                                      3. re: Sherri

                                                                                        With au jus, and its variants, is one of my irritants.

                                                                                        And yes, I do cut non-native English speakers some slack.

                                                                                        1. re: sr44

                                                                                          All time favorite of mine, in the late departed Petite Soo-Chow in Chinatown, Manhattan: Perversed Duck ... now I'm thinking, what do you have to do....

                                                                                          1. re: sr44

                                                                                            I would take 'with au jus' as an indicator that they are using Johnny's concentrate, not the meat's own juices.

                                                                                            Do you cut English speakers some slack when they uses non-native words and phrases? Or ones that have partially nationalized?

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              Yes, it is a warning.

                                                                                              I don't think they should be using phrases in another language if they don't know what the phrases mean.

                                                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                                                I suspect there are plenty of borrowed words or phrases for which you or I don't know the original meaning. 'au jus' just happens to be one of the more recent borrowings, one that is completely English to some speakers, and still French to others.

                                                                                                A good many of culinary word errors that people complain about fall in this not-quite-fully-borrowed category.

                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                  That's a gracious way to put it.

                                                                                                2. re: sr44

                                                                                                  In Britsh English, we borrow "jus" from the French and you'd see it regularly on restaurant menus, meaning a thin, light sauce - usually the juices from roasting meat - to differentiate it from "gravy" or "sauce", which would imply a heavier, erm, sauce. .

                                                                                                  Never, ever, "au jus". Which would just look odd and, in truth, unintelligible, in a menu written in British English.

                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                    Whereas "with au jus" is pretty common on this side of the pond.

                                                                                                      1. re: sr44

                                                                                                        I've seen "with au jus sauce" more times than I care to remember.

                                                                                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                          Whoah. That's the best of the best.

                                                                                                          1. re: tardigrade


                                                                                                            Johnny's French Dip Concentrated Au Jus Sauce

                                                                                                            Au Jus Gravy is a common variant (Knorr, Campbells)

                                                                                                            Here the English word 'au jus' is used as an adjective modifying sauce or gravy. These commercial products are meant to simulate the natural juices of a roast. In effect an unthickened beef gravy.

                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                              I think the sauce part is telling unknowing people what au jus is (yes, au jus is strictly not a gravy or a sauce but it can be a simple descriptor)....if simply au jus, lotsa folks might say "whats dat?" And lets nevermind the pronounciation aspect.

                                                                                                              1. re: porker

                                                                                                                The American use of the French would strike me as less odd if it simply said "with jus" or "jus". But then I'm a foreigner so it's permitted for me to think Americanisms are sometimes odd.

                                                                                                                By the by, is the phrase "au jus" also used in Canada? And, if so, is there a distinction between how it's used in Anglophone and Francophone areas?

                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                  Some makers of the American equivalent of Bovril may be to blame to the terminology (Johnnys). 'au jus' probably was common on Frenchified American menus a century ago, but the invention of the 'French dip sandwich' in the early 1900s may have been responsible for moving the term into the world of informal dining.


                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                    au jus is used in Canada. Not sure about the rest of the country
                                                                                                                    (Canada is bilingual on paper but the reality is that Quebec is French and the other provinces and territories are English)
                                                                                                                    but in Quebec au jus is used by English speaking people without the need for "gravy" or "sauce". The most common being roast beef au jus.
                                                                                                                    The French use it the same way.

                                                                                                                  2. re: porker

                                                                                                                    The dictionary lists it as an adjective. In 'au jus sauce' it is in the normal slot for adjectives. In 'beef au jus' it is in the slot for a prepositional phrase.

                                                                                                                    Some other French origin 'au' words in English (that retain the space):
                                                                                                                    au courant
                                                                                                                    au fait
                                                                                                                    au gratin
                                                                                                                    au lait
                                                                                                                    au naturel
                                                                                                                    au pair
                                                                                                                    au revoir

                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                      Surely most of those examples are simply French phrases being used as French phrases, rather than English language phrases.

                                                                                                                      As previous, I accept I do not speak American English so apologies if these phrases do, in fact, generally appear in "ordinary" American English. Certainly, they never appear as in British English, except in an entirely French context (with the exceptions of "au pair", in the context of a foreign domestic household assistant and "au fait" in the context of being knowledgable about something)

                                                                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                        Misused is my contention. We adopt the phrase or word without really knowing what it means. "Paninis" is another example. Hence "with au jus."

                                                                                                                        1. re: sr44

                                                                                                                          "I really like a good panini sandwich with au jus gravy on the side."

                                                                                                                          1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                            Agreed. I like chipole-tays on mine.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                              No, you're supposed to say that you like a GRILLED panini sandwich etc. ;-)

                                                                                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                            I took that list from a 1976 American Heritage Dictionary, just scanning down the page of words starting with 'au'.

                                                                                                                            When does a French word or phrase become part of the English language? It's a judgement call. One measure might be when the word gets used according to English grammar rules, and few English speakers are aware of its original meaning or usage.

                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                              I'd be interested to know in what context, other than as a French phrase, "au lait" (for example) might be used in America where, as you suggest, few English speakers are aware of its original meaning.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                Outside of the context of food labels, I can only think of the New Orleans area with a hangover from french occupation, with such phrases as "laissez les bons temps rouler". Elsewhere, the short distance from Vermont to Quebec City is two worlds apart.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                  'au lait' is in the dictionary without example. People may be aware that 'lait' refers to milk, but not how the 'au' fits in there. I'm more familiar with the Spanish 'cafe con leche', and now, the Italian derived 'latte' has eclipsed the French derived term.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                    I can't figure out how the "au" fits in either. Coffee with milk should be cafe avec lait. Same with 'au gratin'=pommes avec gratin. OTOH, 'au revoir' is another story.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                      High school French class, circa 1975: "Au" means "with the". Google translate disagrees with this now.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                        Google Translate doesnt speak French - it makes an approximation.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                          I yield to the more recent French class. Mine was 1953-57.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                          But what is 'gratin'? I also suspect that for most American English speakers the French prepositions 'au', 'aux','avec', 'ala' are more associated with specific phrases than with any specific meaning.

                                                                                                                                          Another indicator of 'au jus' incorporation into English: The dictionary gives its pronounciation as 'o zhu' (ignoring the diacritics). But off hand I would just pronounce as it appears in English, complete with an ending 's'. And apart from some recent reading on this phrase, 'jus' means nothing to me.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                              The French pronounciation is more along the lines of "o jew" but the j sound is more a cross between sh and j, almost "o shoe".
                                                                                                                                              How people decide to pronounce it in English varies. In the US, I've heard
                                                                                                                                              ow juice
                                                                                                                                              o jew
                                                                                                                                              ew jewse

                                                                                                                                              Yeah, avec=with, but this is a literal translation. As is often the case, going from one language to another, nuance and subtle meaning get lost. So "café au lait" is indeed "coffee with milk", but it has subtle more meaning in French.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: porker

                                                                                                                                                I've often wondered whether commercial cooks are worried that "jus" without the "au" sounds like "Jew".

                                                                                                                                                1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                                                                                  commercial cooks know that "jus" is French for "juice", so no.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                                                                                    Are they also worried that "juice" sounds like "Jews"? And they must lose a lot of sleep over jujubes in the month of July.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                      Actually, it can be argued that "sautee" is an English word at this point. It is of French origin, just as the words "city, very, river" are (and many more). However, once a word is part and parcel of an English lexical environment, it can be seen as English. Furthermore, English does not have accent marks. Accordingly, it is correct without accent marks.

                                                                                                                    3. Back in the day (1960's) I was a proofreader @ a publishing house in NYC.
                                                                                                                      I pick out typos in everything I read. It is a curse!!
                                                                                                                      I don't mind the typos on an "ethnic" restaurant menu and almost always expect it. The instructions on the wrapper of chopsticks: "Welcome to Chinese Restaurant. Please try your NIce Chinese food With Chopsticks. the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history. and cultural" Forget about proper upper case and punctuation. You do get the general idea.
                                                                                                                      I do mind seeing blatant mistakes on upper crust restaurant signs and menus. If you are charging $40 you have to know it is a steak and not a stake!!

                                                                                                                      1. There's a new restaurant opening here and they released their menu early. It has things like priosutto, priscutto (both on the same page!) pepperchine peppers, chicken franchaise, pasta fagol, and ruebens (and apparently quite an identity crisis).

                                                                                                                        1. I rarely get upset about any of these things, except at foreign words being used incorrectly, such as "panini" used as the singular and "paninis" as the plural - it's "panino" and "panini", really. Or "toasted bread with bruschetta" …

                                                                                                                          The most hilarious was with my wife and her parents at a very old French restaurant in L.A. The menu is in English, basically, but the dishes are described in French. I was the only non-Francophone in the group, but even I was catching some serious bloopers. The waiter, who also spoke no French, was amused by what we pointed out to him, and told us that these descriptions had been written by the chef, who IS French. Just goes to show that a French guy can be as semi-literate as anybody.

                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                            oh, I see half-illiterate menus in French on a fairly regular basis.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                              Yes, the best solution is to say "toasted bread" or "sandwich" for panini/panino. Yet, the English "panini" is not the Italian "panini". In English, it is a panini--plural: paninis. When saying "I'd like a panini" you're not speaking Italian. Therefore, you don't need to follow the rules of Italian grammar.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  It's the way I'd look at it. In such use, it ceases to be an Italian word.

                                                                                                                            2. Ha, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one driven batty by this. Huge pet peeve! It makes me embarrassed for the restaurant, and disappointed that they don't care enough about detail or first impressions. And yeah, I'm talking about your more upscale places, the ones with a cheese menu and specialty cocktails and nicely plated food and who are supposed to care about all the tiny little details. You can be a great chef and a lousy speller, but you need to realize your weaknesses and make sure someone proofreads the menu before printing. It is true, MS word does not know a lot of food terms (it has been known to recommend 'prostitute' as a correction for 'prosciutto') so another reference like Larousse or the food lovers' companion is essential. It seems so easy to prevent.

                                                                                                                              1. While spelling errors do indeed raise my hackles, it's the use of "unnecessary" quotation marks that really get me. It's usually hilariously unfortunate placement, too, with terms like "all-natural."

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Baskerville

                                                                                                                                  "All natural" drives me bonkers. Partially because of the "air quotes", but because I always want to smack someone with whatever it is that is printed "all natural" and remind them that poison ivy and shit are "all natural", but that doesn't mean I want to eat either of them! It's one of those "feel good" (sic) phrases that doesn't actually mean a darned thing.

                                                                                                                                  Even "no artificial ingredients" is better.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Baskerville

                                                                                                                                    Naha in Chicago (a pretty high-end restaurant) is much better now with their menus [see: http://www.naha-chicago.com/text/menu...] but several years ago they were **so bad** with their double quotation marks (easily three times as many as found on their current menu) it was a TRIAL to decipher their menu and very, very hard to read it.

                                                                                                                                  2. Do these errors affect your enjoyment of the food?

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                      At the margins, it can. It corrodes the suspension of disbelief that is sometimes necessary in dining....

                                                                                                                                    2. All my life I've been a stickler for good grammar and spelling. It's a habit of mine to proofread as I read something just to see if I can spot an error.
                                                                                                                                      Nowadays, since bad grammar/spelling has become mainstream and nobody seems to care, I've been rethinking my stance on the subject and realized that my position is outdated. The purpose of language is to communicate. If, in spite of errata, the message is understood by the reader, then it was communicated successfully.

                                                                                                                                      28 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                          Unfortunately,' mediocracy rules' these days.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                            Unlike those good ol' golden days.... (which only exist in nostalgic minds).

                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                              I just proved my point. I used the word "mediocracy" instead of 'mediocrity' and nobody called me on it.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                Except that the air quotes indicated ironic usage, so it was assumed by many readers to be intentional...

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                    Yes, I for one had thought you meant it as a term in a similar way to that other term "meritocracy".

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                      I was impressed by your creativity...

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                        I try really hard not to correct people online. They might correct me back!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                          especially with the advent of auto-correct, we're seeing things being posted that may not even be a typo, but a bad auto-correct!!

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                          I thought it was a clever coinage.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                                                            @mbfant & meatn3:
                                                                                                                                                            "mediocracy" is in fact a known term:

                                                                                                                                                            @mucho gordo: Perhaps you didn't know the term you used has in fact already been used?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                I knew it is a word; I just wasn't sure if it was correct given the context. I decided mediocrity was a better fit.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                  That's true in a sense. One might say that "mediocrity rules" is better usage, as distinct from saying that "mediocracy is a ruling condition" or some similar phrase. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                  In any case, your intended meaning was clear in this instance. :-D

                                                                                                                                                        3. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                          I hope you are not saying that mediocrity is admirable nowadays...

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                              No, that is not what I said. I said that this perceived notion of days of yore -- when people were more polite, better educated, more eloquent, bladibladiblah, is a misguided one. Those better days never existed but in our own, flawed minds.

                                                                                                                                                              I thought that was obvious?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                When I was younger, I used to believe that old people became rude with age. Now I'm older myself, I realise that they had always been rude.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                    We're not rude. We just let people know we expect preferential treatment.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                      We're not rude. We just don't want to put up with those wiseacre little whippersnappers.

                                                                                                                                                                      And stay off my yard!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Vidute

                                                                                                                                                                          Which means we get the food while it's still freshly made.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                            i'll be joining the club, shortly.

                                                                                                                                                          1. I'm much more tolerant of bad spelling and grammar than I am of pretentiousness. That turns me off pretty quickly. Admittedly, sometimes the bad spelling is a result of pretentiousness, and other times it suggests a level of pretentiousness that isn't really there.

                                                                                                                                                            Aw, hell...I'm in it for the food.

                                                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                              Ugh - yes...pretentiousness just leaves an acrid taste in my mouth that interferes with things.

                                                                                                                                                              "Our eggs, from lovingly hand-raised birds hatched from Peruvian breeding stock and allowed to wander free in the sunshine and rainbows, apologetically collected only after seeking acceptance and forgiveness from the hens, then teased into a golden mixture sautéed in butter created from the most contented cow who has ever lived, then graced with salt plucked from the skin of virgins after a dip in an unpoilt ocean, and dusted with pepper ground from the only vine of its species found deep in the rainforest"

                                                                                                                                                              Ofergawdssake - it's scrambled eggs.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                Ahhh... I would call them "mumble-jumbled eggs" myself.

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the hilarious description!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                  Ah - but I would expect to see that on a menu in Portlandia. In fact, that description would not be sufficient because it did not include the personal (individual) names of each animal. The human virgin can be nameless, that's OK.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                    'cause I mean really-- you're just picking salt off the virgin's skin...you're taking the chicken's EGGS for heaven's sake.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                    Sunshine842, sadly, I think you could make a fortune writing menu copy in our town.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                      "our eggs etc"
                                                                                                                                                                      Sunshine, now that is very funny!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                        You forgot that they were collected by twelve virgins under a full moon in Alice Water's cruelty-free henhouse.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                          Or this one, from Tallinn, Estonia this summer?

                                                                                                                                                                          I have to say I enjoyed my meal so much more knowing the walls were painted with cottage cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                                                                                            I understand milk paint, but somehow I'd expect it to be lumpy if it were made with cottage cheese :)

                                                                                                                                                                            And **obviously**, SOME London genius came up with the music. We just don't know who.

                                                                                                                                                                            (this whole thing makes me giggle...they're SO CLOSE to having it right, but they stop just a little short of it)

                                                                                                                                                                      2. This doesn't make me doubt the competency of the kitchen. Not everyone has good grammar/spelling skills. This in no way means they are stupid or unskilled in other areas. I've known a great number of well regarded artists, musicians and chefs who were brilliant in their field but wrote like a six year old. Quite a few were dyslexic. I think people often grow into their strengths while shying away from their areas of difficulty.

                                                                                                                                                                        Often the specials are put on the board by who ever is free in the moments before opening. That could be the bus person, the server, the prep cook. A restaurant is a madhouse to work in and there really isn't much down time to double check things which are not vital to getting the food out once service is ready to begin.

                                                                                                                                                                        It is surprising that there is such a lack of proofing with permanent printed menus. I think typesetters used to catch a lot of mistakes, but those days are gone.

                                                                                                                                                                        Literacy does not go hand in hand with intelligence, creativity or competency. In a perfect world we would all be able to patch up the gaps and chasms in our education. Everyone is shortchanged when assumptions are based on initial outer appearances.

                                                                                                                                                                        So, until the meal tells me otherwise I'll continue to view the menu errors as a sign that the place puts their energy in the kitchen!

                                                                                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                          "Literacy does not go hand in hand with intelligence, creativity or competency. In a perfect world we would all be able to patch up the gaps and chasms in our education. Everyone is shortchanged when assumptions are based on initial outer appearances."

                                                                                                                                                                          Very well put. Coming from a long line of language snobs, grammar grouches, and pronunciation sticklers, I have realized that people who most delight in pointing out other people's mistakes / shortcomings lead sad lives, indeed.

                                                                                                                                                                          Pass the food, please :-)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                            While literacy is not correlated with talent and creativity, there are certain mistakes that can betray a deceitful mindset, like using buzzword phrases as marketing ploys in odd ways.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                              Those are not mistakes, not of spelling and grammar anyway. Deceitful marketing ploys often have impeccable spelling and grammar. Whereas sincere, substantive messages often come with superficial errors that snobs and sticklers can't/won't look beyond. Too bad for them.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, deceitful ones often are spelled immaculately. But then I've found the ones that are not that bore little relation to what was served. Superficial errors are not always innocent. I wish I could say otherwise, but in some cases they are actually red flags.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                            EXCEPT that, as noted in this thread previously, a person who is passionate about their business wants their menu to be correct. This person knows if their grammar and spelling are not up to snuff. If it is their nature to pay attention to details in the kitchen, it should be their nature to make sure that their menu reflects this by asking someone else to proofread it for them.

                                                                                                                                                                            EDIT: I agree with the exceptions noted above regarding restaurants where English is not the owners' first language.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc


                                                                                                                                                                              Other than those with limited resources and limited command of English - I would expect restaurants with native English speakers to at least try to take some care over aspects other than just the deliciousness of their food. If it is a hole-in-the-wall or a mom-and-pop place it might be a situation where shrugging off spelling mistakes would be called for but if it were Per Se or the French Laundry or Le Bernardin I would expect the menu to be accurately spelled. If you, as the chef-owner, is terrible at spelling, you should find/identify a staff member who is particularly competent in the matter to proof-read your menu before you publish or print it - and that certainly applies to establishments where the menu changes on a daily basis. If I am paying US$300 per person for a meal I don't want to be distracted by poor spelling on your menu-for-the-day. (I am not saying that those high-end restaurants I named have had incorrectly-spelled menus; I am just using them as examples of the kind of high-end places where I would not expect these mis-spellings to occur)

                                                                                                                                                                              If one is talking about a permanent printed menu at lesser places it behooves the management of the place to check if the spelling is correct, as so many others have pointed out here on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                              It isn't that one is more concerned about spelling rather than how the food tastes - it is that one expects someone who prides themselves on getting everything right to try to do that - get everything right. As has been said here, there are circumstances (including sparsely-manned places) where the food is wonderful but everyone there can't spell to save their lives - exceptions there are merited; and where the day's menu is on a chalkboard, say - but in other cases, such as I have exemplified, one expects that they would take the care to spell their offerings correctly. (And if one were to point out an incorrect spelling on a chalkboard to the chef-owner, it would be nice if they took the suggestion in (and check it, if they wished to) rather than just dismiss it [yes, it has happened in my experience] because they thought their spelling was correct)

                                                                                                                                                                              For that matter, exalting mediocrity is not really a laudable endeavor. One would hope that one strives for excellence, including the proper spelling of terms used in describing what one is offering. The core of one’s competence – the food, in this case – is certainly to be concentrated on and a diner appreciative of good food would return to an establishment regardless of the erroneous spelling on the menu; but such spelling *does* indeed count as a strike against the establishment.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                It isn't that one is more concerned about spelling rather than how the food tastes - it is that one expects someone who prides themselves on getting everything right to try to do that - get everything right.


                                                                                                                                                                                Yes. You & Sandy said it well. My boss says it as "don't let your mistakes go into the dining room." Everyone makes mistakes, the key to success is catching them. I know how hectic restaurants can be, I work as a pastry chef. I know that great cooks can be dyslexic or lousy spellers, I know and love some. And I will happily proofread any menu put before me, so that we don't print them with jalepenos or humbolt fog, and I will look up any word I'm not 150% sure of, because I really want to get everything right.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                              My dear father was very bright, and a hopeless speller, with a pretty sketchy idea of grammar. The rest of the family used to groan at some of his bloopers. How I wish I could enjoy another meal with him (he has been dead 5 years) -- I promise I wouldn't correct any of his mistakes, irregardless of how glaring they are. (He frequently substituted irregardless for regardless.)

                                                                                                                                                                            3. When I see spelling errors on printed menus it bothers me a little because it comes off as being really lazy. How hard is it to spell check? You can type a word into google and find out if you spelled it correctly in one second, literally. If I were to spend all that time and money designing and printing menus I would be damned sure to check it first. We're talking about printed menus, not a Facebook post, or even a daily special written on a chalkboard.

                                                                                                                                                                              I do give the ethnic restaurants somewhat of a pass though, especially on the grammar since that is much trickier and harder to check than spelling. I'm a regular at a Mexican and a Thai restaurant here and their menus are FULL of things like "grill shrimps," "spinish," and "tiolopia." What kills me is that Mexican one is full of errors in Spanish as well as English. The food at both places is very good, properly cooked, and inexpensive, and the service is always good too. So ultimately it's not important, but it does make me wonder why they don't just ask a native speaker to look at the menu before they print it. I've actually thought about offering to proof read their menu for free but I'm worried about offending them.

                                                                                                                                                                              What really grinds my gears though is this Great Midwest "habañero" jack cheese I see every time I go to the grocery store and the "habañero" flavored Mike Sells potato chips I see at the gas station. How does this happen? These are large brands that distribute all over the country. They probably sell hundreds of thousands of packages a year with this misspelling printed in huge letters on the front. It's absolutely mind boggling.

                                                                                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: StringerBell

                                                                                                                                                                                I suppose they think the en-yay appears more Mexican to their target market which is mostly uninformed gringos. Either that or they ARE uninformed gringos.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                  The Ñ is probably just a marketing ploy. CNN en español has recently become CÑÑ (actually there is a giant tilde over the two n's). In Spanish that makes no sense--according to spelling, phonetics, whatever. However, it is "clever marketing" as it marks it as somehow "Spanish." I suppose the same goes for those chips. Never mind that in much of Latin America--well, Spanish-speaking Latin America--habaneros (or is it habañeros) are a totally unknown commodity. Just as custard apples are not very well known to North Americans--despite being a bona fide English word.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                    Heh. You do realize that throwing "bona fide" into your post is...stirring the pot. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                    There is also the phenomenon called "hyperforeignism".

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                      I like your take on these matters. FWIW, I have lived off-and-on in the Yucatan for 16 years, and it is the "thumb" of Central America where habaneros are common, but no where else in the region.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                        It's okay that "custard apple" is not well-known in North America. That means that when they *do* show up in the produce aisle, there's more for me, because nobody knows what they are.

                                                                                                                                                                                        (this doesn't work so well in areas with a large Caribbean population)

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                          Eh, how many can you eat anyway? :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                          Besides, the "custard apples" in the West/Caribbean are different from the ones I know (and would covet) from SE Asia.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                            when they show up, there's usually only a half-dozen or so. (I'm an East Coaster, so I can only speak to the ones in the Caribbean)

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: StringerBell

                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes. This & other similar responses sum it up for me. It seems lazy & sloppy. You're running a restaurant. That is your profession. You put thought into your menu items, their descriptions, & the pricing. Why stop short of ensuring the words are spelled correctly? I don't get it & it does bug me.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Does it reduce my confidence in the cook? I'm not sure, but I do think at least a little bit less of the restaurant for not paying attention to the details of its menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not perfect all the time myself, but when it comes to my professional work product, I take advantage of the tools available, which include spell check, the internet, & people whose opinions & intelligence I trust. When it comes to restaurants' menus, I think they should care about getting it right.

                                                                                                                                                                                      (Sorry for the repetition. Long day.)

                                                                                                                                                                                      I, too, give a pass to hole-in-the-wall ethnic places where English is not the first language. Everywhere else, though, I find it, hmmm, disappointing, I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I would never correct anyone else unless asked or tasked with it & I own up to being imperfect, but it seems to me a real effort should be made to ensure menus at restaurants are error free.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Languages especially the Latin languages have an enormous repertoire of False Friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Salata is not Sal like in Spanish or salty as an adjective; it is salad in Greek.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Proficiency in languages is somewhat innate, just like brilliance in painting or excelling at piano. One must study under the age of 6, prior to becoming fixed in their speech patterns.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I was sort of lucky, dad is Italian and Mom French Swiss, and I had studied Portuguese and Spanish at University.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I attended the American School in Italia, and we are all multi lingual. It was thinking outside the box and I thank my parents, and my daughters, us.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ciao, Margaux.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: foodeditormargaux

                                                                                                                                                                                        "Salata is not Sal like in Spanish or salty as an adjective; it is salad in Greek."

                                                                                                                                                                                        But it's insalata in Italian and ensalada in Spanish. So.... perhaps not the perfect example?

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Drives me bonkers. And I'm always the one to see it. If restaurants were willing to pay to proofread their menu, I would start a side business in a flash.

                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                          Same here. Timid forays into the topic with owners has been met with belligerence and defensiveness, even when put to them in a "positive" way!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. When I lived in Ecuador, hand-painted roadside signs were frequently mis-spelled in Spanish.

                                                                                                                                                                                          While I was in a nursing home for 3 1/2 months, a "hospitality" staff member would take our requests for the next days' lunch and dinner - in such a way that we were almost guaranteed to forget what we ordered, but I think it was just a head count of who wanted what. Any special requests never got communicated.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Some I remember best:
                                                                                                                                                                                          Black Bean Soup made with white beans - it was still very tasty
                                                                                                                                                                                          A complete menu change where I was told I'd ordered baked fish and rice - ummmm, I never ordered baked fish
                                                                                                                                                                                          The staff asking if we wanted ChowChow, which most people up here had never heard of - when it read couscous.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Fajitas when it was frittata
                                                                                                                                                                                          Fried chicken when it was chicken fried steak

                                                                                                                                                                                          And somehow, I was always last to be asked my choice, so I never had a chance to correct the errors of the two youngsters or find out where the breakdown in communication had happened.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I'm normally annoyed by spelling errors, but these days, at a mom and pop restaurant, I tend to find it endearing. In a world getting very slick, a lack of polish seems kind of reassuring.

                                                                                                                                                                                            But I suppose at a higher end place, it makes them seem careless and rushed.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I recently saw "creme fresh" on a menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Spelling and grammar errors only bother me when they're confusing. At a small Caribbean seafood restaurant the menu said, "Yellow fin tuna (unstable)." What?? I asked the owner if that meant "seasonal" and he said, "No. It means the price depends on our costs." I said, "Oh, you mean "Market Price."

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Luckily, I see it more often on wine lists, than on the food menus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lots of errors, and too many to cite.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  We were just at a Michelin 1-Star restaurant. They had two noticeable errors on the wine list, that I whispered corrections for. Now, this was in France, and our wine list WAS in English, so that could have been an issue. They noted the corrections.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Back in the US, same happened with two dessert wine lists, when they really messed up with their Ports. I asked to see the bottles, and pointed out the issues. Again, they were noted, but not sure if they were corrected.


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. My answers to the first 2 questions: yes and yes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I'm assuming everybody already knows that entire websites are devoted to menu translations like Human Chicken, Stir-fried Crap, and Demonic (deviled) Eggs? Google "funny menu translations".

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                        My favorite in Jerusalem has always been "Fresh Pomegrenade Juice".

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Though at this point, given that so many places around Jerusalem use this amusingly wrong translation of pomegranate that I suspect it might be on purpose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                                          In French, a pomegranate is a "grenade" (but pronounced grehn-ahd) -- might it be one of those cross-linguistic hybrids?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Possibly because it looks a bit like an early grenade (the bomb that you throw). Or did grenades get named as such because they looked like pomegranates?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters


                                                                                                                                                                                                              The fruit and its name(s) has been around a lot longer than the explosive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              'many seeded' is an alternative connection.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Medieval Latin pomum granatum - many seeded apple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I heard Colonel Potter call a Chinese grenade a "commie pineapple" on M*A*S*H.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If my pomegranate comes out with a burning fuse, I usually run.


                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I saw a lovely one in Herzlia (Israel), the menu was describing Babaganoush - an eggplant dip - using the English word for eggplant which is aubergine. "A smoked aborigine dip".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  sounds so much better than soylent green.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I worked for a printing and publishing business for several years. Poor proofreading is to blame for those mistakes. Both the Advertising Representatives and the patron having the printing done. The patrons had to sign off on the final proof of whatever was being printed. Ultimately their fault, but the Ad Rep should have caught it too. Sloppy work, on 2 fronts. And in the kitchen also? Who knows. Something to wonder about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Poor proofreading, yes. Ad rep, maybe not.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Home printing has come a long way in recent years. Plenty of mom and pop places don't have budgets for proper printing services, so opt to do it themselves (or the owner's cousin's son knows a bit of Publisher). Shortcuts or simple ignorance can play into the mix.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Just seen on the TV screen guide for Pioneer Woman:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "pasta alla Ladd"


                                                                                                                                                                                                                21 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What's wrong with that? Ladd is the name of her husband.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Because it should say "al Ladd" -- presuming her husband is male.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To this English speaker, 'pasta alla Ladd' looks and sounds a lot better than 'pasta al Ladd' - or at least more natural.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks to pie a la mode in the sixties/seventies!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I imagined that this is likely what the Pioneer Woman was shooting for with her "alla".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                and confusing it with Italian names like 'pasta alla Norma'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In 2007 she had a http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Penne a la Betsy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think it should be "pasta à la Ladd" - meaning a dish cooked or prepared in a specified style or manner. Which probably means in the manner in which her husband enjoys it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's what I thought, too, but one, I know linguafood is better than I am with languages, and two, I don't know how to put an accent grave into my comment!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Is the difference that one is Italian and one is French?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If she is doing French (which I doubt, since 'alla' is Italian for f/sing), then it would still have to be 'au' instead of à la.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whoa! Serial linkage, Linda - not watching the Emmy's, I take it? '-D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But that still makes "alla" Ladd wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        LOL! Nah, I'm an "Under the Dome" fan, so I'm watching that. And I don't know French, so I was just linking several sources for "a la".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And yes - I definitely agree that "alla" is completely incorrect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No. "Alla" in Italian and "à la" in French are short for "alla moda/maniera di" and "à la mode/manière de", respectively, and they are always used in the feminine form, even if followed by a masculine noun or a man's name. Descriptive expressions like "alla Berlusconi" or "à la Sarkozy" are completely correct (although often jocular), while "al Berlusconi", "au Sarkozy" would be completely wrong if you're trying to say "in the style of Berlusconi/Sarkozy".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's nothing wrong with "pasta alla Ladd".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Your French/Italian is obviously better than mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hanging head in shame. I'll have to find something else to bitch about. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The 2009 original
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pasta alla Marlboro Man

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              300 comments and not a one about the incorrect Italian usage!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And from Chow recipes:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bucatini all'Amatriciana alla Robert Sietsema

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. When some Chinese menus are translated into English, the resulting words are either egregiously uninformed, or particularly amusing: http://buildingmybento.com/2012/03/06....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Otherwise, yep, spelling errors bother me just a bit, though it's not offensive enough for me to leave the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. They bother me a great deal, since most of the time the misspellings are for words that are very, very basic; it makes you wonder how they could possibly overlook it. You do not see spelling and grammar errors on food packaging or labels in this country at all generally, and you wonder why a menu writer can not proofread and make an error free menu. Yes, it does diminish my confidence in the chef somewhat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rosik929

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  wait...the skill (or lack thereof) of the person who typed out the menu somehow is a reflection of the skill (or lack thereof) of the chef?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How does that even work?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Depends on the restaurant. If it's some sort of ethnic and English is their second language I give then a break. If the previous is not the case then I begin to wonder...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. It totally diminishes my confidence in the place. It is inexcusable with today's wonderful cooking and the general price of entrees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. A short time ago, I saw a wine described on a restaurant list as hailing from "one of Napa Valley's finest Appalachians . . . ."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Do you think that might have been an uppity spell checker "correcting" when the writer's back was turned?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mrs. Malaprop - the spell-checker!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Damn West coasters trying to take over everything!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Not everything. We just want your water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Not on a menu, but there's a local liquor store that's open on Sundays (which is rare where I live.) They can only sell beer and wine on Sundays and there is a handwritten sign explaining this. Part of it says, "The closest place to by liquor on Sundays is Howard Coundy."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Also, I recently saw a food truck at a festival. They had hot dogs on the menu and it cost, "$1 extra for cheese or chill."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: 4X4

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            a local beer distributor has a sign posted on the register:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lottery - cash only - no credit cards - no acceptions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: 4X4

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That was supposed to say "Howard County". I made a typo while posting about a typo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. A year ago I transcribed the online menus of every Michelin-starred restaurant in the U.S. (where available). Even at that level, it's kind of funny how many places misspelled "Valrhona".