What’s in a spelling?

Dear Flying Spaghetti Monster,

I have a confession to make. Over the years, I have logged an untold number of person-hours LOL-ing, ROFL-ing, ROFLOL-ing, taking mobile cam shots and showing to friends and ROFL-ing together at unintentionally funny spellings in Indian restaurant menus. And since we are talking about food, I thought it might be appropriate to invoke thy holy noodly presence and share my thoughts with you.

I used to think that I was part of a small clique of above-average spellers who found vicious joy in laughing at spelling gaffes, but when I see whole blogs dedicated to them, newspaper sections (with photographs no less), I feel my mirth dissolving like sugar cubes into already over-sweet tea.

So I have made a list, and I would like all well-to-do, middle-class, urban, lucky-enough-to-have-gone-to-a-school, rich, college-educated, white-collar, blog-writing, net-surfing, mall-hopping, multiplex-ing, over-consuming, car-driving, polluting folks of India (like me) to ROFL, LOL, ROFLOL for one last time, and then, stop finding this so funny.

I realize that humour is either intentional, or the outcome of embarrassing pomposity exhibited by the high and mighty, and not a result of a struggling man who left his village to run a “Chaines” joint out of a ramshackle van struggling to communicate what he’s trying to sell in an illogical, unphonetic language he has never been taught in his life.

Thank you for your patient hearing, Oh Noodly one. I will do Abhishekam with Arabiatta sauce as penance for my shameless elitism over the years.


61 thoughts on “What’s in a spelling?

  1. lol….. i came across “appayil” on the menu board of a road-side shop on LB Road Thiruvanmiyur. After much pondering, I realised it meant Half-boiled eggs! 😀

  2. Been there, done that! This post made me cry..It is rare, especially on reading one of your posts where the tears are always from laughing too hard 🙂 Great blog! A regular reader, now delurking..

  3. Hey Krish,
    one thing I came at a restaurant in Cochin-
    “Tit- Bites”…i think they meant tit- bits a.k.a appetizers.

  4. The spelling is not really the problem; it’s this notion that it has to be in English to attract people. The English speaking/reading elite probably won’t even look their way, except perhaps to smirk at the spelling! And the non-English, well they woudn’t know. Some of these guys can afford flashy, fancy signboards and menu cards but not someone to tell them the correct spelling, huh? 🙂

    And anyway we dont have exclusive copyright on bad spelling: http://www.edict.com.hk/engrishasia/default.htm

  5. An old edition of the Lonely Planet guide to India used to carry “‘Fried childrens’ at a north Indian restaurant” (apparently referring to fried chicken?) as the archetypal Indian menu blooper. Having seen Malabari ‘parrott-as’, plenty of ‘snakes’, and of course, this post, I know we have a lot more to offer! 😀

  6. ahahaha…thy nudals… ahaha

    sweat and sour soup–maybe the chef is emphasizing on his special ingredient! 😉

  7. Krish, I agree that not all typos are funny, especially when pointing them out has overtones of intellectual snobbery. Also, a shrewd shopkeeper may deliberately introduce errors and typos into his menus and signs to lull the customer into a false sense of superiority.

    But in a different context, when a cautionary sign says “Take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty”, one really has to stop and wonder – leaving aside any humor value, is the sign really serving its purpose and improving safety?

  8. It’s downright snobbery, no two ways, but for most of us petty bourgeois, the funniest things of our little bourgeois lives. We had a guy who fitted LPG gas kits to cars, just down the road and someone had conned him into putting up a billboard saying “LPG gas and conversations”. It must have been a con. And all of us would whip out our cellphones and click away.

    One of my evil uncles once pulled a similar one on his mother. She, needless to say, completely ignorant of Hindi, wanted to go to a Mumbai suburb called Mulund. To spare her children any bother, she decided to take a train. She asked this evil uncle what to ask, if one wanted to find out whether the train went to Mulund. This rat told her to ask anyone on the platform “Yeh train Mulund kyoon jata hai? ” leading to hours of blissful mirth at the thought of mother causing consternation among the passengers at Matunga Railway station.

    But funny, nevertheless.

    Also, in Mumbai, the standard line on restaurant billboards is “Veg, Non-veg and Chinese”.

  9. My favorite is from a hotel website in Pusan, Korea – offered “Orgasm services”. I stayed there in 2005 but couldnt find that particular “service” on offer, worse luck

    Oh well, I dont have the screenshot available now, and the hotel seems to have renamed that “service” to “Customer Satisfaction Services” ..

    Well, here’s some kind soul who blogged a screenshot of that hotel website in 2006 –


    It has been brought to our notice that these four classified ads appeared in a Patna English language newspaper on four consecutive days.

    MONDAY: For sale – Vishanth has a sewing machine for sale. Phone 9840716581 after 7PM and ask for Mrs Mani who lives with him cheap.

    TUESDAY: Notice: We regret having erred in Vishanth’s ad yesterday. It should have read, “One sewing machine for sale cheap. Phone 98407 16581 and ask for Mrs Mani, who lives with him after 7PM.”

    WEDNESDAY: Notice: Vishanth has informed us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in the classified ad yesterday. The ad stands correct as follows: “For sale – Vishanth has a sewing machine for sale; Cheap. Phone 98407 16581 after 7PM and ask for Mrs. Mani who loves with him.

    THURSDAY: Notice: I, Vishanth, have no sewing machine for sale. I smashed it. Don’t call 98… 16581 as I have had the phone disconnected… I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Mani. Until yesterday, she was my housekeeper but she quit!

    Not quite Thy Noodles class, but amusing, if you’re not Vishanth.

  11. I read the back of an auto while in delhi .. it read, “are u manglik ? Join manglik mirages.com”


  12. I have one too!
    There was a non-veg shop that opened on my way to school in Delhi. Its name went like this:
    Dhawan Chicken Corner
    Veg and non-veg

  13. I found a curious combination of ISKCON and a remotely chinese dish in a hotel in Amabattur in one of my recent Chennai visits – it was called ‘Gopi Manjuri’. Didn’t order it but I’m sure it would have been divine – could almost feel the scantily clad women serving me chunks of cauliflower, cooked possibly by Hueng Tsang, in a wok!

  14. Oh, and there’s this tailor near the Adyar Signal .. the board has a pic of what the artist thinks is the typical man about town (and probably was, back when Bertie Wooster was driving two seaters around London, to be sure…).

    The tailor shop’s name – “Gay Man”

  15. I don’t know if you really found such gaffes or just made them up but I know of one which my hubby dear saw first hand. At a restaurant in Jharkhand when he went on office duty. He went to a Chinese restaurant, the first mistake ;), where the menu read “Bhej Manchurian” for what was intended to be a “Veg Manchurian” 😀

  16. When Kamalahasan was just starting out he shared his home’s compound in Alwarpet with that of Ambuli Hair Cutting Saloon that advertised Step Cutting and Boob Cutting.
    Kamal fan or not, I never ventured near the place.

  17. Sad that most of the comments are reflective of the attitude you mocked at!

    Yes,I find it snobbish to laugh at the menu card spelling errors

  18. maami! I remember that one! ROFLOL!!! And here’s my 2 cents: There used to be an icecream parlor down ECR called ‘Lip to Lip’ 😉

  19. Funny….I agree that the roadside thela walas and Kaizhandhi bhavan waalas make this mistake unintentianally but sometimes it is Intentionally done even the most “etchikated” [ 🙂 ] like the recent bollywood flick movie “Krazey 4” and a lot more…I couldn’t remember any now…It’s like intentionally wearing Pants below the underwear like the Superman does ( It shows Superman as a different person)

  20. Hey KA,

    There was once a side dish called “Malai Gupta” on offer at the chennai one office canteen (Annalakshmi). Wonder how this skipped your notice!!

    Not to forget the addition of ‘H’ to all the letters here like… DHAL, CHHAPAATHI etc regularly on the menu boards in chennai.. Note that it is not only the food stuff but also names like SATHYAM where the use of the H is used in a manner befitting the likes of Ekta Kapoor and her melodramatic over the taap serial names!!

  21. I don’t know….just because these spelling mistakes were born out of ignorance, doesn’t necessarily mean they stop being funny, or even that we shouldn’t be able to laugh at them…your post cracked me up, as usual….I suppose the problem starts when you start assuming that just because you can laugh at these mistakes, you are in some way superior to the person who made them…knowing a language that most of us have had dinned into us from birth is hardly anything to be proud of…opening a restaurant (chainees or otherwise) and making it work with all the handicaps of not knowing this language, on the other hand, is….

  22. Sorry to disappoint you.“Appayil” does not mean Half-boiled eggs!It stands for Fried eggs more specifically sunny side up or single fried as opposed to double fried eggs.It is one of the great mysteries of “Madras Bashai” how fried eggs became half boiled eggs.

  23. Sudhakar: Ya! I know they are fried eggs…but nobody in chennai seems to get it…they all call it half-boiled, even if it is never boiled, partially or otherwise…
    Ashok: Perhaps it’s Half Oil, which is pronounced as Aappayil 🙂 Just a guess

  24. Dear Vinod Sharma-sir,

    Are you NorthIndian? Do you speak NorthIndian? Yes you are and you do. It shows.


    Puppy Manohar.

    “Aspiration is the root of all evil, not money” – Me

  25. Dear Vinod Sharma-Sir,

    Don’t feel bad about Puppy Manohar’s comments.

    He is a racist sob (ah dhang you)

    I will explain why the Thamizhans write th for Kavitha.

    See, Thamizh doesn’t have a syllable in it for “Th” as in Thanda (Hindi), “Bh” as in Bhootni (Punjabi), “Th” as in “Thada” (Marwadi), “Kh” as in Khakra (Gujrathi), “Ph” as in Phayoo (Marathi)

    When the word ‘Kavita’ is read, an Indo-Aryan speaker choses to disambiguates between, “t as in ‘T’ime or t as in Be’th’ ” using his superior Aryan intelligence. But, the Indo-Aryan has to rely on experience. No tom dick n harry North Indian 12 year old can tell from the word “Katar” if you are referring to a dagger or a line. It takes years of experience reading “Indic” in English to disambiguate. (foot note 1)

    The Thamizhan doesn’t have to disambiguate. His language doesn’t have a th as in “thoda” so he assumes that t-> time th-> beth. He spends the saved intellectual CPU time in other fruitful activities like watching Vijaykanth movies, invading Southeast Asian countries, reviving Sangam literature and going up in life.

    Now, who is right? The North Indian or the South Indian ? Simple. Let the good old jolly good Gora Sahib decide. Whatever the British Master thinks is correct is correct. I don’t think anyone will challenge that.

    Baby Vaijayanthi.
    “Sharma gayi mein, hai hai”- Lata Mangeshkar

    footnote 1: KP once pronounced Tatva, Sanskrit for principle as Tatva, slang for testicles. But ofcourse, KP is not North Indian. KP is a KP.
    Good old Madras Presidency style “Thathva” would have saved his embarassment in front of many a Hindu Purists.

  26. Out of curiosity, where did you find this menu card? Obviously not in Tamil Nadu since there is a chilled bear listed, and low-temperature ursidae may only be obtained in big hotels or TASMAC shops here.

  27. Nice ya. My favourite sign is one I saw in a Chandigarh petrol pump:
    “Free pollution with petrol”
    (yes, it should’ve been “pollution check”)

    As for Appayil, for a long time I thought there was a Krishna brand of oil viz. Krishnoil
    Took me years to work that one out!

  28. I had posted this in my blog sometime back on the same topic 🙂 Contents are below

    Unfortunately , I have a good eye for spotting spelling mistakes wherever I go… And decided to mention those which were very very obvious, and those which affected me SO much, that everytime I see some like this, I made a note of them in my mobile phone, so that it will prove to be good laughter material for posterity… 😀

    Here goes the list…

    This was painted on the rear side of a lorry…
    “Keep Distens”
    Yeah yeah.. We’ll keep distens…
    Btw, hey lorry… is ur Spiid = Distens/Taim ????

    hee hee..

    In the advertisement of some Boarding/Lodging Place..
    Arrrgghhh…. 😦

    In a pretty famous and slightly expensive eatery…

    “Cheexe Pisa”
    How about a slice of the Leaning Tower?!?!?!

    “Franch Fries”
    Do you fry it in Franch oil by any chance??

    “Greap Joose”
    Sounds so Yuck!!! Then comes the question of drinking it… Uggghhh!!

    In a private bus….


    No comments…!!!!!

    Other unpardoonable mistakes spotted, while walking on the road…

    “Deseiner sudithar”
    I really want to HANG this guy.. Pleaassse allow me…. Please……

    “bus dippot”
    Wow!!!! But this is still better than the previous one… :p

    In a mechanic shop..
    “Pancher” / “Puncher”
    Ohh…Can I hire goondas to punch/beat up somebody… ??

    “We print Broshars”
    Do you have a spell check software in your system before u print stuff ???

    And the most often misspelt


    Ugghhh…. Wait a min !!!… whats the actual spelling..????!?!?!? **Confused!!***

  29. @ Sudha Narayanan

    about ““Restarent” “Restorant” “Restaurent” “Restorent” .. take a trip to KL sometime and check out every single “Restoran” .. and every single “Kedai Buku” (aka book kadai, bookshop).

    Bahasa malaysia is by far the best at taking tamil words, bastardizing them and rendering them into english.

  30. – chikan menjooria
    – chilled bear
    – mills reday ( meals ready)
    – sperm men’s wear ( velachery, i kid you not)
    – playboys, gents land ( trivandrum)
    – piss pry ( fish fry)
    -goan cousin (cuisine)

  31. Your intent in this topic is unclear. Were you trying to sympathize for the bad spellings or sarcastically making fun of them yourself?
    Ashok: My intent is always unclear because I usually have no clear intents. Its all unintentional

  32. I think the English language has developed in the way it has, to create elitism and snobbery. I mean, only a really cussed person would ensure that Hair and Cair is not right, nor is Hare and Care, both of which were hair salon names in rural Maharashtra.

    Pondy offered us a fine dinning experience recently.

    So, the thing is that a first generation English learner is bound to make mistakes. Maybe we should start a movement to democratise English spelling??!

  33. Thanks for the clear explanation baby vijayanti and puppy manohar.. Well its just that I found that unique here..also one point that i noted is the conversion of:WINE SHOP into tamiZh saying OOine shop.. guess that too fits into your explantion. Chanced upon your blog guys.. gr8 work I must say. \m/

  34. The Great Noodly One is all-forgiving. Why else do creationists still walk the earth un-beset upon by pirates?

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