Consider an American who opens a Chinese restaurant but has only eaten at Americanized Chinese restaurants. They are copying something which is already a distorted copy of the original. They could copy it perfectly but it would still be different from real Chinese food.

Is there a word for such a copy? I think Simulacrum is sometimes used this way but isn't actually defined as such.

  • 5
    I doubt that there is a single word (or short phrase) that means what you want. Just say what it is -- a good copy of American-style Chinese food. You could use ersatz (inauthentic).
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 18:58
  • Hi Mick, thanks for your comment. I'm aware that it's possible to express this idea directly with a specific phrase. I asked this question because I'm hoping to find a word or short phrase that captures the idea in a general way.
    – japreiss
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 19:22
  • 1
    The situation is sometimes called Chinese whispers, but the copy itself is still a copy.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 7:10
  • 1
    I think @Mick's suggestion of ersatz is perfect. dictionary.com/browse/ersatz Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 8:37
  • "Poor imitation" is probably the most idiomatic term, though it doesn't convey the specific meaning of "copy-of-a-copy".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 2:11

3 Answers 3


It was a second-generation Chinese restaurant (or chef).

  1. A class characterized by the number of reproduction cycles between a copy and the original.
  2. Something that reflects a significant development from a previous version.


Generation does not consider the number of reproductions made from the same source. Rather, it describes the number of times a new source is made from a copy. A print made directly from a negative is described as a first-generation copy. A reproduction from that print is a second-generation copy, and so forth. – Generation is often used to describe major evolutions in technology. - https://definedterm.com/generation_also_copy_status


You could call it the discount version.

This new restaurant is the American discount version of a Chinese restaurant.

  • 2
    That’s assuming that the copy is actually inferior to the original. It may not be; it may just be different. Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 8:41
  • A discount version does the same job as the original. but it's not a clone.
    – drawde83
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 12:30
  • No, a discount version does the same job as the original, but not as well as the original. Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 12:34

The forward looking, bandit marketing, I know I stole it and I know it's not authentic phrase of the the day is "made it my own". We took the regular Chinese buffet, and we made it our own.

  • 1
    Made it our own describes an adaptation following a study of the original, but I think the OP is looking for a word for which the copier hasn’t experienced the original.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 7:07

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