That’s the special of the day I saw on a menu board as I walked up Lexington Ave. today. I would like to think this meant the pasta was served by bongo-playing beatnik waiters, but I’m afraid the explanation is much more prosaic: most low-level jobs in New York restaurants are filled by Spanish-speakers, and in Spanish b and v are purely graphic variants for the same phoneme, which is pronounced [b] at the start of a word. (And, in case you didn’t know, vongole are clams in Italian.)


  1. I saw the same dish in a few restaurants when I was in Japan. I believe also the explanation is the same.
    Besides, I wonder how came the Italian “linguine” changed its final vowel in English.

  2. dungbeattle says

    B vs v has many times in anglais put vison to the head of the line as bison when called out for KP.

  3. One of my favorite New York phenomena is restaurant-sign misspellings (re-spellings?) of familiar Italian dishes. I’ve seen “muzzarella” more than once. Also “lesagna.”

  4. Going Dotty in Kansas says

    Once I saw a sandwich board in front of a dysfunctional McDonald’s restaurant (125th & Bway) which announced, in crudely-lettered spray paint, DRIVE THUR IS-CLOSE. One of those things that makes you look twice, I suppose.

  5. Frank Prain says

    I was in a local (Melbourne) Vietnamese bakery last week – they had a board with all their offerings written up. At the bottom of the board was: “Bon Alfatite “(with an acute accent on its own after the e).
    It took me a second to realise that this was meant to be “bon appetit” with a soft p, though I’m not sure where the l fits in.

  6. Luigi Bongole says

    This is not funny.

  7. Yes it is!!
    A mistake often made on street-signs and menus of Dutch restaurants and butchers is the Gordon bleu, where it should be Cordon bleu. Our popular singer Gordon may have something to do with it, but I put it down to ignorance. And of course the usual misspellings of Italian foodnames.
    On the other side of the world, in Chiang Mai, a friend of mine once payed for his meal by correcting the menu card, wich up to then had been written in largely phonetic-looking Thai-ish English.

  8. I just realise that I wrote that the Dutch butchers & restaurantholders make their mistakes because of their misspellings of Italian foodnames. It would serve them right, but that’s not what I meant.

  9. In Austrlia, this dish is made using Pippies which are shellfish which live in the sand on the beaches.
    The Pippies in pasta is spectacular.
    You collect pippies by walking in the sand at the waters edge, feeling the shells with your feet, reaching down and picking them up.
    Too good to be true!

  10. On investigation, this turns out to be Plebidonax deltoides.

  11. marie-lucie says


    “Everybody knows” that Italian words end in the letters a or o if singular, and quite a few people are familiar with final i indicating the plural. These letters are to be pronounced as vowel sounds. But a final letter e following a consonant letter does not look to an anglophone like it should be pronounced, let alone indicate a plural. The word linguine looks like a singular word of French origin, like machine, or a French adaptation of the Italian word, so in order to “correct” the spelling so as to make both its Italian origin and its plural meaning more conspicuous, the final “wrong” e is replaced by an i, as in tortellini and many other kinds of pasta.

  12. The e at the end of lasagne similarly doesn’t seem right to English speakers (or at least Americans), so the singular lasagna gets used instead. I guess lasagni would be harder to pronounce.

  13. marie-lucie says

    Also, the -in-vowel suffix is very common among pasta terminology and it is easy to create analogous forms, unlike with the end of lasagne. In French the word is plural, as in Italian: des lazagnes.

  14. Trond Engen says

    Australian pipi and New Zealand pipi.

    This took me back to summers in Northern Norway and playing with mussel shells as farm animals. I would have called the Australian mussel a kuskjell and the NZ one a griseskjell, but neither is the right genus. These play names are in common use, as suggested by the griseskjell page, and kuskjell “cow shell” is actually the official Norwegian name. Also saueskjell “sheep shell” is common enough to work as a Wikipedia entry, redirecting to the official term hjerteskjell.

  15. Trond Engen says

    Ouch. I messed up the HTML in the first link.

  16. Fixed!

  17. David Marjanović says

    Germans can’t cope with spaghetti all’arrabbiata. Too many double letters is too many!

  18. Lars (the original one) says

    I may have told this anecdote on another thread, many years ago, but I still like it:

    Back in the day there was a Belgian airline called Sabena (initially state owned, I believe). So when I went into a baker shop and saw a sign for Sabena cakes, I was intrigued by what the Belgian connection might be.

    But seeing the product it became clear that the sign should have said “Sarah Bernhardt cakes;” presumably the sales person had only learned the name by ear and never seen it written. (Reputedly the fancy cake in question has been copied in other countries, but maybe not under the same name. It can be seen here).

    I’m also sure that you can go into any Danish baker shop today and ask for a Sabena cake, especially if you stress the ultimate, and not be corrected in your pronunciation. Using a back version for any of the A’s will just be pretension.

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