Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?


Art Steinmetz


October 23, 2008

As long as I can remember noticing, 30 years ago, say, Chinese take-out places have used the same chopstick sleeve with the same horrible English greeting.

Maybe that was forgivable when Nixon went to China but now I believe there are more than several folks in China who speak English quite well. Before the Olympics, the Chinese government found the practice of, er, liberal translations on signage in Beijing embarrassing enough that they sent squads of language police around to “help” business owners fix things. Given that around a million Americans see these sleeves every day, you’d think word would get back to the printer about this. Maybe they screwed up the order back in 1975 and printed 5 billion instead of 50 thousand. They’ll be gone in another 20 years.

By the way, we said “Peking” back when the chopstick sleeves were written. Now we say “Beijing.”If stupid Americans can get with the program, why can’t they?

On the other hand, I read my VERY FIRST useful fortune from a cookie the other day. I keep hoping for something good like “Tomorrow at 3pm you will narrowly avoid being hit by an Entenmann’s bakery truck. The mortified driver will offer you cookies.” Instead I get “Puppies are nice,” or something.

So anyway, you know how you lose touch with friends and you don’t want it to happen but it just does and the longer you put off contacting them the more guilty you feel about not doing it so you put off doing it some more and weeks become months and then years? I was in that state with a couple people and was trying to screw up my courage to invite them to my big 50th birthday bash. Then I cracked open a stale cookie and got this:

Naturally, I took it as a sign, got off my ass and lifted my heavy burden with an email (which amazingly was still valid after all the years). Thank goodness the printer for the fortune cookies has a copywriter with decent English skills. The lucky numbers were garbage, though.

BTW, the title of this post refers to the classic catch phrase in a Calgon laundry additive commercial from the 1970s.