Oh sorry. I’ve been busy wafting some of my Immigrant Coma incense, Like a good Edison. Wait, what? Yep, that’s Engrish. Engrish can be defined as the simple misplacement/incorrect usage of a letter (ie, no smorking or clazy sale), or as utter madness (do you need an example? Which yokel thought of Immigrant Coma?) In all fairness, that particular brand was sold at a Japanese chain called Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ), which sells anything from British baked beans to…well, incense is a good start. Even weirder, one of the Tokyo branches of Don Quijote has a half-pipe roller coaster on its roof, but it has never operated! Oh, those evil tangents.
Engrish gained its dubious reputation thanks to Japan, but let’s not limit ourselves to one country; Chingrish for instance would be China’s take on English. Though I was thinking, since Chinese is a tonal language, is screwing up the tones the same deal? Say you’re a vegetarian, and at the restaurant you tell the waiter 不要 (buyao- don’t want) “rou.” If the waiter gets context clues, then he’d probably think you don’t want “肉” (rou, with a falling tone), or meat. (Which usually means you don’t want big pieces of meat, so they just give smaller pieces…) But if you get the tone wrong, and the waiter forgets where he’s working, you might be declaring that you don’t want suede “鞣” (rou, with a rising tone). Come to think of it, you wouldn’t want suede either. And in writing, what if you miss a stroke in a character, or muss the order up? Is there a website displaying our contemptible attempts at becoming literate in Chinese? If there is, please let us know…
Jumping on the transition bandwagon, I was traveling around Chengdu, China a few years ago. Disappointed that a temple had run out of potato juice, something else worth the inevitably unhygienic consumption was needed. Chengdu is in Sichuan (you may anachronistically know it as Szechuan), so the spicy aspect was good and well, but I just wanted a snack. Powdered milk. Nah. Stale Caesarwave chocolate? Not after breakfast. How about some 散子 (sanzi; here it is used interchangeably with the more apt 馓子)? Round-fried wheat cakes? Unhealthy and dissatisfying? Brilliant. Just be mindful of the one-child policy:
This is one of those groovy literal translations. 散 means scatter, disperse or distribute, and 子 could signify child or son. I didn’t try it at that time, and vendor has probably been replaced by a Prada store by now anyway. Engrish, it’s always a pleasure.
What are your favorite examples of Engrish/similar versions in another language? Seen any near where you live?