Tag Archives: English

The Joys of Japanese English (AKA Engrish)

you know…

the door of your heart silently closed…

I, looking at you without a breezing sound…

you know…

my endless wait desiring the door of your heart

would open…

Have I decided to start publishing my poetry on this blog? Nope, not quite. I just thought I’d write a post in honor of Japanese English, or Engrish.

The poem above, which I actually really, really love, came from the front of a photo album I purchased in Japan.

English takes on a life of its own in Japan (and of course this phenomenon is not limited to Japan, but this is where the majority of my experience lies, so I’m sticking to Japanese English for this post). If you’ve never seen it, I’d highly recommend checking out the Engrish.com website for a comprehensive guide to worldwide Engrish.

Before writing too much more, I want to say that my appreciation of Japanese English is not meant to be derogatory or mean-spirited—I genuinely appreciate some of the unexpected humor and beauty that arises when people write in a language that is not their own.

I wanted to share a few examples of Japanese English that I’ve collected throughout the years.

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The text on the packaging reads: “Try our ‘Naive Lady’ toilet tissue soft and of good quality. Choosing recycled paper is the first step to keep the earth full of greens for your own children.”

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“Please defend following when you make the dog stroll in Yoyogi-koen.

  1. Dog owners – for the consideration of others, please ensure that your dog is on a lead while inside the park grounds.
  2. It bears it in mind sanitary in the park ..use… Moreover, please take home to home without throwing it away to the rest room and the garbage box in the park and dispose of Fn.
  3. The park is a public domain place that everyone can use. Let’s bear it in mind so that the use manners are defended, and the trouble should not hang to the other.
  4. Please follow the instruction of the park ranger etc. in the park.”

I believe that Japanese English falls into a few distinct categories, and this is a great example of text that was probably just put into Google translate (or something similar). I love the redundancies “please take home to home” and unusual turns of phrase such as “trouble should not hang to the other.”

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Is it just me, or is there something really funny about an automatic toilet flushing system named “BT-Crab”?

IMG_4066I remember speaking with a fellow English teacher during my first year in Japan and he was wondering if there had been one Japanese/English dictionary that had some bad translations in it, which had then doomed the entire population to make the same mistakes.

One example is the widespread use of the term “woody” where “woodsy” would be more appropriate.

IMG_4075Stay away from the Bigot-mobile!

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“Emargency Exit

If anything should occur, 

please destroy the cover doornob and open the door.”

That seems like an awfully severe reaction to anything that should occur! I also wonder how you can open the door after you’ve destroyed the doorknob.

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Hmm… for some reason I don’t think I want to pay someone to perform any service provided by a company called “Coopoo”…

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First, I have to say that I love the fact that there’s a car called a “Rasheen.”

I’ll end this post with the smaller text on Rasheen’s tire cover:

Listen to the murmuring of a stream.

Run after wild birds. Rest in the bosom of the woods.

Indeed.

 

 

Review of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Should you get your hands on a copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley?

Short answer? Yes.

For the slightly longer answer, read on.

Confession time: I’m not sure if I’m exactly the type of reader that Ann had in mind when she wrote this book. As best as I can tell, she wrote the book mainly for people who:

  • have a strong aversion to writing, but need to write in their professional lives
  • are what she affectionately terms “adult-onset” writers (in other words, people who were scarred by negative experiences and swore off writing for a decade or so)
  • lack confidence in their writing abilities and need a friendly guide to coach them through some of the basics

I, on the other hand:

  • have been obsessed with writing for as long as I can remember (My earliest masterpiece was some text I dictated to a preschool teacher to accompany one of my drawings. “This is a monster. He scared a ghost. The ghost scared the monster. Last night I saw a Dracula and three debils [sic].” Chilling commentary on the post-modern condition or a factual narrative of Halloween? You decide.)
  • have loved every English teacher I’ve ever had (perhaps with the exception of Mr. Page, a cranky old Englishman who wanted us to write down everything he said verbatim. “It took me years to compile all this information and you’re not writing it down! TAKE NOTES!” But even he had a certain charm…)
  • have devoted the majority of my career to writing and pretty much spend a good chunk of every workday writing and editing

And yet, I’m not too proud to say that I still have a lot to learn. Especially since I’m relatively new to this whole content marketing gig and at work I often get asked to write or edit things like marketing emails or landing pages (which were decidedly not on Mr. Page’s AP English syllabus).

Everybody Writes appeals to me because Ann strikes a perfect balance between informative, entertaining, and straight up hilarious.

In one of my favorite passages, she alters a quote from Mean Girls to make a point about high school-mandated writing styles:

“What you learned in high school might’ve once been a helpful guidepost. But it’s time to let go. As Janis says in the movie Mean Girls: ‘That’s the thing with five-paragraph essays. You think everybody is in love with them when actually everybody HATES them!’

Actually, Janis was talking about the school’s mean girls—The Plastics. Not essays. But same dif.”

Whether she’s offering tips on the difference between “bring” and “take,” a cool app that’ll prevent you from opening Facebook while you’re trying to draft your latest blog post, or just making a Tina Fey reference (because… why not?), Ann’s writing is clear and helpful. And friggin’ hilarious.

In Everybody Writes, Ann talks about having “pathological empathy” for your readers. Basically, you always want to think about what benefits they’ll get from reading whatever you’re writing. What’s in it for them? I love this concept. Because even though writing can feel like a very egotistical pursuit, if you leave it at that, most people won’t bother to read it.

So, in the interest of anyone who happens to be reading this, I’ll stop telling you why you should read Everybody Writes and just let you get on with it!

P.S. Do you have a long, boring commute? Do you get amped up about listening to audio books while going for a run? Or maybe you feel nostalgic for your childhood days when your parents would read to you? Whatever the case, there’s good news! Everybody Writes is now also available as an audio book on audible.com. Check out a little snippet of it here.