USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘chinese restaurant’
Folk speech
Foodways
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Dumber the Name, The Better the Food

My sister got this saying from a guy she was seeing at the time. He was extremely well traveled, and used this trick for finding close to/authentic Chinese food in America.

Allegra: “So his advice is to look for the Chinese restaurant with the weirdest name – the name that makes no sense in English. Go there and you are sure to have some authentic fare at the right price.”

Me: What do you mean by weird?

Allegra: ” Well there are names which make no sense and are a sort of enigmatic challenge for the discerning brain. Do they actually make sense and would be clear to those who were more culturally aware and cosmopolitan? Or are they purposely inscrutable so as to attract attention? Who knows, but here are some real-life examples:

I Don’t Know Chinese Restaurant

New Fook Lam Moon (was there an Old Fook Lam Moon?)

Concubine and The Shanghai

New Cultural Revolution Restaurant

Confucius Pao

The New Edinburgh Rendezvous Mandarin Kitchen

Nice Day Happy Garden

Me: Have you tried this out anywhere in New York City?

Allegra: “I haven’t yet. But now that I’m thinking about it, I fully intend to.”

Analysis: Perhaps perpetuating this rule of thumb – “The dumber the name, the better the food” is a way for people to deal with their fear of the unknown and bestow some honor on their xenophobia. Or, maybe the rule of thumb is true – at least as a self-fulfilling prophecy. People will think the food is better if they’ve found a place with a truly confusing name.

Childhood
general
Humor
Narrative

Children’s Chinese Restaurant Chant

Ruchika Tanna

Los Angeles, California

April 25, 2012

Folklore Type: Childhood Chant

Informant Bio: Ruchika is my friend and fellow Archaeology major. Ruchika is a Sophomore at the University of Southern California. She has moved around her whole life. She is Indian.

Context: We were both in Intro to Folklore and decided to meet before Maya Civilization, the other class we have together, and discuss some.

 

Item:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant to buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread,

He asked me what my name was, and this is what I said, said, said,

My name is eli pickleby, pickleby eli,

Wallah wallah whiskers

Chinese, Japanese, Indian chief!”

 

Informant Analysis: I think this is just nonsense that’s fun to say, no particular meaning, as far as I can see. Learned it from my sister when I was in elementary school. She learned it from her friends. We used to sing it all the time, not so much anymore. Only when we go to Chinese restaurants. Like we did last weekend!

Analysis: This is a variation of a hand game chant that I have also heard. It is slightly shorter, and Ruchika never did the hand game part. At first it was probably just funny for her, but now it is a connection specific to her sister and her. What is also interesting is that my version has more ethnicities than these three from Asia. Either one of us could have the adapted version, or both our versions are adaptations. This could childhood chant could be an example of how specific ethnicities change certain things unconsciously to be more relatable to their culture.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

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