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Aug 19, 2012 10:12 PM

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.