Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is 'Engrish' another form of English?

Today I found a discussion of 'Engrish' at Wikipedia. I am fascinated - after laughing at many of the photos on the previously mentioned site - by what we find so hilarious and incongruous in the collocations of Asian 'Engrish.' Sometimes the words make no sense at all, but the funniest signs, of course, are those that are comprehensible but somehow break our rules of appropriateness in specific contexts. It's so hard to get students to understand humor (cartoons, funny 'Engrish,' headlines with double meanings, etc.), yet here we have many examples of it being apparently unwittingly produced.


Anonymous said...

It’s advisable for sings and sentences to be double checked by native speakers!
I’d like to bring up funny but cute Japanengrish that I’ve seen in the U.S.

One day I was browsing at the meet section. I saw a Caucasian couple, both of them were in their 40’s and really huge. They were ordering some meat at the counter, and I was behind them waiting my turn. They were holding hands and wearing matched beige-pinkish T shirts. They were holding hands and it was indeed a heartwarming scene. After receiving their meat from the counter, they turned back onto me. I noticed there was a big Kanji (a Chinese character) in the center of their T shirts. It says BUTA. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first because it means a pig in Japanese. There were many ironies in the situation, their body size, the Kanji and the color of their T shirts, the place where they were at. I wondered if I should tell them what the Kanji represents, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. What brought them to wear the T shirts anyway? Was it their joke or honest mistake?

A couple years ago, a friend of mine, Erin, and I went to a fair. Erin wanted to get Henna tattoo. Henna is just ink-like thing which is applied on your surface of your skin, and fades in a week or so. Indian lady showed Erin the catalogue of samples, and there were many Kanji tattoos in it. She said she had no knowledge of Japanese whatsoever, but had checked Japanese dictionaries to find Kanji with cool meanings. One of the samples explained AI JIN as a person you love. In Kanji, AI represents love, and JIN represents a person. So it looks ok, however, the combo of these two Kanji creates whole new meanings. AIJIN means the other woman and a mistress. I imagined when a boyfriend has his girlfriend get AIJIN tattoo as a gesture of love. I don’t know how many people have gotten this tattoo, but it’s lucky that the tattoo wouldn’t last forever, isn’t it?

evelyn said...

Thanks very much for your amusing story. I've heard several stories like this from students, some of whom have gotten tattooed with Japanese or Chinese signs that were meaningless or meant something totally absurd.

I'm sure these students would agree that they should have consulted a native speaker friend about all the possible interpretations of their Chinese character before they had it branded on their skin.