Fortune cookie fortunes are getting less and less interesting all the time

I remember reading a story about the history of fortune cookie fortunes, and how the pool of fortunes has been getting smaller because people keep complaining about them. In the article, they gave as an example that the fortune "You will meet a stranger" was removed from the fortune library because somebody complained that it was too scary.

The effects of this trend toward meaningless fortunes continue to be felt. A few years ago, I opened a fortune cookie and looked at the slip of paper inside. It read simply

Someone will give you something.
Comments (42)
  1. Someone You Know says:

    When I was a kid, a couple of my parents’ friends would play this game where, during a pre-determined period, whichever player successfully gives the other player something first wins. Could be anything from an expensive birthday present to just handing the other guy a pen or a piece of paper. They claimed the game originated in Persia.

    Handing the other player this fortune sounds like it would be the ultimate finishing move.

  2. My friends have a little "game" with fortune cookies. When you read a fortune add "in bed" to the end.

    Have yet to find a fortune with this did not work and some are very funny with this small change.

    Someone will give you something


    Someone will give you something in bed

  3. benryves says:

    "British Gas have made a mistake – your rebate is in the post" was one rather optimistic one I once unwrapped. As I’m not a customer of British Gas that would have to be quite a mistake, so I’m still waiting. :-(

  4. Someone You Know says:

    @Billy The Clown & @benryves

    I think you need to combine these two things.

    When reading a fortune, you should add "Your rebate is in the post" to the end. (Feel free to substitute "in the mail" if you happen to be American at the time.) Perhaps not as sexually charged as the classic "in bed" version, but likely to be much more surreal.

  5. Josh says:

    As a twist on the classic "in bed", I’ve found that adding "except in bed" can end up funnier.  The classic "in bed" relies on sexual innuendo, while the "except in bed" is good for (self)deprecating humor.

  6. Neil (SM) says:

    The "Except in bed" joke is an old XKCD comic.

  7. Boris says:

    At least not everyone is doing it. I got one from our local kosher Chinese outfit saying "Your current financial problems will be solved as if by magic" (hmm, how does adding in bed work with that one? Maybe if inserted after solved…). I thought, what financial problems? A month later I was laid off.

  8. Mike says:

    "A month later I was laid off."… in bed?

  9. A_me! says:

    This fortune cookie is delicious! [more] It has a scrap of paper inside. It reads:

    Actually I am a bit of a fortune collector.  What I like to do is take the fortunes on the front, and the ‘learn Chinese’ message on the back and try to apply them to each other.  Sometimes you get good results!

    [ Teamwork makes the dream work. ]

    [ Learn Chinese: Not. ]

    [ There is a prospect of a thrilling time ahead of you. ]

    [ Learn Chinese: I am a lawyer. ]

    [ A charming friendship is in the making. ]

    [ Learn Chinese: Drunk, tipsy ]

    [ Important news will come from far away. ]

    [ Learn Chinese: I need money. ]

    Obviously the fortune cookie place in the local area has some pretty strange folk.  The best I remember was some time ago:

    [ You need a change of environment, wallpaper your bathroom. ]

  10. Inno says:

    Did that one immediately come true when the waiter brought you the check? How DO they do it???

  11. David says:

    Of course, the opposite is that the fortunes can be too specific :)

    "You will find true love on Flag Day"

    Yep, even "The Simpsons" has this covered.

  12. Josh says:

    @Neil: Damn.  Now I’m not sure if we came up with that beforehand, or if suffering severe source amnesia.  The comic is only a year old, and I think we were using it well before then, but memory is tricky like that.  Of course, like many XKCD readers, I’m convinced Randall Munroe is spying on me for about half his comic ideas…

    Link for the interested:

  13. Josh says:

    @Boris: It’s acceptable to insert a comma between the fortune and "in bed".  "Your current financial problems will be solved as if by magic, in bed" (Hooray for prostitution ;-) ).  If it strains the syntax too badly, I think most people accept mid-sentence insertion at a logical point.

  14. A friend of mine once got the fortune:

    "Digital circuits are made from analog components."

  15. Evan says:

    One of the craziest fortunes I’ve seen — more along the line of Raymond’s post — was "a useless life is an early death". Gee, how uplifting.

  16. ERock says:

    My favorite fortune cookie fortune:

    "It tastes sweet."

    Oh, yes it does.

  17. ton says:

    Myself I tend to oscillate back and forth between believing that the fortune cookies are random gibberish to being spot on real. It’s so disturbing…

  18. Phylyp says:

    My favourite one: "Keep reading this until the others pay the bill"

  19. Skip says:

    Many years ago in college I spent a few months as a waiter in a Chinese food restaurant.  One day we got bored and used tweezers to pull the fortunes out of the cookies and replace them with fake ones we printed.    My favorite was ‘Someone is stealing your car right now’.  Invariably if someone got that one they’d get up and check.

  20. Joseph Bongaarts says:

    Re: "You will find true love on Flag Day"

    I actually got that fortune from a cookie once, and thought it oddly specific. Two months later my daughter was born 2 weeks early on June 14th (Flag Day)

  21. htd says:

    that one did it, I dont think it can get any less interesting.

  22. Matt Kellogg says:

    My favorite fortune was "Things could be better, but they’re good enough."

  23. Boronx says:

    My favorite:  "You will receive a small fortune."

  24. Thomas says:

    The best fortune I read was the one that the Linux fortune program picked for a root shell on one of my systems:

    "You’ll be sorry…"

  25. Bob says:

    I once got: "This fortune is false."

    I didn’t know whether to believe it or not.

  26. Ariel says:

    I once got "Fortune not found: Abort, Retry, Fail?"

  27. Alex W says:

    "You can’t possibly live long enough to make all of them yourself."

  28. jcs says:

    Help me, I am trapped inside a Chinese fortune cookie factory…

  29. Jim Lyon says:

    I once got one that said "Wash face at morning, neck at night."

    I tried it; it didn’t work.

  30. Chris Lineker says:

    If you’re going to explicitly define a background colour for some text, you should probably define the text colour as well.

    People reading via RSS with dark backgrounds get to see white text in your yellow box.

  31. wpallen says:

    "You Will Be Found In A Dumpster" — Actually it didn’t say that.  

    More like — "You Will Be Successful" which is a real pick-me-up in this economic climate!

  32. wpallen says:

    Oh and once I received one that said, "You Will Win The Lottery".  Seriously.  But I never did.  Maybe tonight?  

  33. Isaac Lin says:

    One non-fortune that I’ve seen is "You will buy new clothes." Although an entirely accurate prediction for everyone, it’s not a very interesting one.

  34. Anonymous Coward says:

    enum FORTUNE






  35. @Skip:

    You didn’t work in Boulder, CO by any chance, did you?

    I never got this one myself, but the folks at the next table one day were recounting the (scariest|funniest|whatever) fortune they’d received:

    You have a secret admirer.

    Lock your doors.

  36. DysgraphicProgrammer says:

    I once opened a Fortune cookie that was empty. A couple of my more superstitious friends avoided me for weeks.

  37. Eric Lippert says:

    My favourite fortune cookie said "Consolidate your interests while the lights are active".  I assume this is a word-for-word translation of some Chinese proverb — if we translated "make hay while the sun shines" or "strike while the iron is hot" directly into Chinese it might make about as much sense. Anyway, I immediately emailed my financial advisor and told her that a fortune cookie had told me to consolidate my interests while the lights were active, and she said she’d look into it.

  38. Richard says:

    The fortune cookies from one place I go – Asian Too in Viera, FL – have amusing fortunes.

    One read:

    You are about to become $8.95 poorer ($6.95 if you had the buffet).

    These fortunes also have a "learn Chinese" word on the back.

    A recent one unfortunately had the Chinese word for disease: turns out it’s pronounced "bing".

  39. Jeff Howe says:

    The best fortune that I ever received: "Lucky you. Get out your party clothes. The clean ones."

    I keep it in my wallet.

  40. Nekto says:

    They need to make 2 versions of cookies.

    First one is "safe fortune cookie".

    And second one "Interesting and scary cookie, but you have been warned!"


  41. Erin says:

    You should try personalizing the cookies yourself, that can make it more fun and definitely more relevant. The worst one I have gotten recently is "Your lucky number is 9." That is NOT a fortune!

  42. Some Body says:

    Hah, I’ve also been underwhelmed by "somebody will give you something".

    My all-time favorite was "Everyone agrees that you are the best." Taped that one to my monitor for a while. I’m humble, too.

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