Did you ever wonder why almost every Chinese restaurant in the U.S. has a name like “New Fortune” or “Wok Garden”? Or why the words golden, dragon, and panda appear so frequently on their awnings?

Roberto A. Ferdman and Christopher Ingraham decided to crunch some data for the Washington Post to better understand Chinese-restaurant naming conventions. They teamed up with Yelp to survey more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants around the country—here are a few of the most interesting findings:

  • The most frequently-used word in Chinese restaurant names is, in fact, restaurant.
  • China or Chinese appear in more than one-third of the names.
  • After those obvious terms, the next most-used word is express. (Shout out to the Panda.)
  • The word new is used in more than more than 1,500 names; old is used in only 31.
  • Dragon comes second to panda as the most popular animal/creature to appear in restaurant names.

To help visualize the data, Ferdman and Ingraham turned their taxonomy of Chinese-restaurant names into a word cloud:chinese_wordcloud

A brief scan of these terms reveals how deeply ingrained they are in our cultural D.N.A.—just seeing them immediately conjures cravings for Americanized Chinese dishes like General Tso’s and lo mein.

Still, one mystery remains: Why the hell do so many Chinese restaurant in NYC have the word cottage in the name? We’d love for the Wonkblog to tackle that one next.

[via Washington Post]