Catching up, and a study in contrasts

Hey all,

I was in Kamloops and Kelowna this weekend giving talks, so I didn’t have much time for blogging. I’ll get caught up soon, but for now (if you missed it), be sure to read Edwin’s post from late Friday.

Also I want to relate a quick story that I think is pretty cool. When I was in Philadelphia in summer 2011, I went to a place called “Geno’s” for Philly Cheese Steaks. Geno’s is a Philadelphia institution, where you supposedly get the ‘authentic’ cheese steak experience (complete with ‘Whiz’). Of course, because the guy running Geno’s is a fucking asshole, these decals festoon the order window:

Various decals admonishing you to speak English, because this is America, and endorsing Donald Trump for president.

He also sold ‘freedom fries’. Seriously.

Anyway, fast forward to a few days ago, I had to go downtown Vancouver, and as I got out of the train station, I was greeted by this food cart:

A food cart selling Philly Cheese Steaks with lettering in both English and Chinese

I’m pretty confident saying Vancouver for the win on this one. I can’t read (or speak, or understand) Chinese, so I’m secretly hoping the Chinese lettering says “Fuck you, Geno’s, you xenophobic knuckle-dragger! Also, Donald Trump would be a terrible choice for president, and your endorsement of him undermines the credibility of your political opinions!”

But it probably just says “Philly Cheese Steaks”

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  1. smrnda says

    I never *get* businesses who are that overt about their political or religious beliefs, particularly right-wing eliminationist type rhetoric that’s likely to alienate everybody but angry, middle-aged and older white males. It’s just a bad business decision.

    All said, I love being anywhere where signs are in multiple languages.

  2. Winter Toad says

    The Chinese translates literally as “Cheese and beef hamburger”. A reasonable translation if you don’t want to assume the Chinese-reading clientele is uniformly familiar with that regional dish.

  3. katiemarshall says

    It always made sense to me that businesses should include whatever languages they think would entice people to come spend money and I never understood why it would offend someone (also…Quebec language laws..gah).

    But it does bother me when I see products here in Canada with stickers only in English and Spanish. I see it as companies not bothering to match their products to the linguistic environment of Canada and figuring we’re just like the States. French would be actually fulfilling legal requirements, and Mandarin certainly would make a lot of sense.

  4. Enkidum says

    My wife insists that it should be translated as “cheese and cow hamburger” because in order to say “beef” you have to include the character for meat after cow.

    But what I want to know is why doesn’t this just describe a cheesburger?

  5. Bryan Feir says


    That bothers me as well. The product I’ve noticed this on the most (V-8 Splash) is an interesting case: sometimes you get the Canadian (English+French) bottle, and sometimes you get the U.S. (English+Spanish) bottle, depending on what supplier the company ordered from most recently. I found it interesting to compare the ingredients lists on the two bottles, as well, as the bottle with Spanish lettering on it had corn syrup a lot higher on the ingredients list the last time I looked…

  6. Shaun McGonigal says

    Your first mistake was going to Geno’s (or to Pat’s across the street, which is identical in terms of cuisine but is less assholish; the word on the street is that Geno’s is the conservative cheesesteak destination, Pat’s the liberal). As a native of Philly, both are garbage. Next time, seek out a vender downtown before ever going to Geno’s/Pat’s. But if you want the best, go to Tony Luke’s!

  7. says

    We went to both of them. I wasn’t a fan of either. We did find an amazing Italian place nearby that sold amazing meatballs. Also, Secret Ping Pong at the randomest bar ever.

  8. Don says

    So, my wife says it exactly translates as cheese and beef hamburger and cow isn’t needed. We have a terrible fight brewing..

  9. Don says

    And she goes on to say “Of course, cheese in translated by sound (there are two translations in Chinese, one by sound and one by meaning). Hamburger is by sound as well” and then asks me – why is this important? I need a good story here, people!

  10. says

    It’s cheaper to print less versions. So you get what you get. Sometimes I get the canadian version, sometimes I get the California version. In the US, no language is required except the nutrition box in english. If I go to the asian stores, stuff has stickers for english labeling – although Japanese and Korean products already have the nutrition box in greater detail while the Chinese stuff is a crapshoot – while the Mexican stuff almost never does ^-^

    My coke from Mexico has all the logos just like the Mexican bottle, but it has a sticker for nutrition in english…


    The American bottled stuff will generally have the corn syrup higher. That’s just how Americans are, I guess. Not me, but…

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