Textual Analysis of Fortune Cookie Sayings

Though many enjoy the experience of opening ‘Fortune Cookies’ in a Chinese restaurant, some have asked “How Chinese are they?” In particular, Jing Yin and Yoshitaka Miike of the Department of Communication, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo , Hilo, Hawaiʻi. The two researchers examined the “Chineseness” of 595 fortune cookie sayings, using the definition of a fortune cookie from The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995) ‘‘A Chinese biscuit that contains a piece of paper that says what will happen to you in the future.’’
Textual Analysis of the fortune cookie discourse confirmed that the messages broke down into four broad categories :
Prophecy : e.g.  “You’ll be invited to a royal dancing party and meet your first lover.”

Compliments : e.g. “You have the ability to excel in untried areas.”

Advice : e.g. “Yes, do it with confidence.”

and Wisdom : e.g. “No man is rich enough to buy back his past.”

“In the collection of 595 fortune cookies from a variety of Chinese restaurants, 367 cookies (61.7%) are predictive—telling about the future; 66 cookies (11.1%) are complimentary—praising your good character; 72 cookies (12.1%) are advisory—providing advices on life; and 90 cookies (15.1%) are philosophical—stating wisdom”

And, as regards “Chineseness” :

“Fortune cookie sayings provide a perfect example of hybridized cultural texts. They are a fusion of the American Dream and the Chinese upward mobility. In this sense, fortune cookies are both American and Chinese, although the former is more predominant than the latter.“

The paper A Textual Analysis of Fortune Cookie Sayings: How Chinese Are They? is published in The Howard Journal of Communications, 19:18_43, 2008






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