In my town there is a ‘Meet Shop’ where you can buy meat, a hair salon where you can get a ‘purm’, another where you can get a ‘parm’ and a restaurant which offers ‘seefood’ curry. Whilst a ‘crap’ instead of a ‘clap’ might still get my schoolboy funnybones rattling, most of the time I take no notice of such spelling errors. But they are there in my town, just as similar ones are ubiquitous in towns all over Japan.
The reason I mention this is that I was chatting to a Japanese chap last night and he came out with that old chestnut about westerners getting nonsensical kanji tattoos. You know the sort of thing: the guy that wants to get Strength Through Adversity in Japanese, doesn’t do his research properly and comes out with Poverty Gives Me a Stiffy. Anyway, the guy was delighting in such stupidity, and I have to say I’m with him on this; if you’re going to get something permanently etched onto your skin, take responsibility to find out exactly what you want. Don’t bother, and you deserve to be laughed at.
Now, I suppose it isn’t as important to check whether to write ‘seefood’ or ‘seafood’ on a menu, or whether you get a ‘purm’ or even a ‘parm’ as it is to check the meaning of an impending tattoo, but they are errors all the same and they are everywhere. And, of course, those are just simple misspellings. There are all the examples of incomprehensible English, like this curry restaurant’s slogan:
and the things which may be without error but are simply inappropriate, like this t-shirt and this garage in Kyoto:
Whilst I agreed and laughed along with the guy about the tattoos, I happened to mention that I see nonsensical English every day in Japan. Every single day. ‘You can’t walk down a street without seeing several t-shirts which mean absolutely nothing,’ I said.
He didn’t see the point. ‘But they are just t-shirts’, he said.
True. Well, t-shirts and slogans for businesses and menus and… but I guess what he was saying was that they are not tattooing them onto their skin. A fair point, but still, it got me thinking, what would Japanese tourists think if they went to, say, London and on every single street there was a sign, a t-shirt, a slogan of completely bastardized Japanese? Would it be amusing, annoying, or just weird? Who knows? We’re used to the Engrish here, but it really is bizarre that such nonsense can be so widespread, and that everybody seems so utterly unperturbed by the fact that it means nothing. Yes, I know there are some Engrish slogans that make sense to some Japanese in that they can get what the writer meant, something like, ‘For your beautiful every day life’, but equally there are millions of children strolling around with words on their clothes that mean nothing to anybody anywhere.
Ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t matter. If it gives bloggers in Japan material for slow days, and the people wearing it like how it looks, then fine. Just as long as it stays on clothes and signs. After all, it’s better to be laughed at for having ‘Creamy Space Boy – for your comfortable ejaculation!’ scrawled across the side of your boy-racer sports car than it is for having it inked indelibly onto your chest.