Friday, November 27, 2009

Fractured Delights

“Hi, Egg.”
As odd as it sounds, this is a “greeting” (or something) I read on the side panels of a delivery truck driving past on the street. No hints or suggestion that might explain the meaning or purpose, no company name or other identification.
This ‘Hi, Egg’ is only one of several examples seen in the past month or two. Japan is, as far as English goes, a veritable garden of fractured delights, and there are times you wonder if the writer, or speaker didn’t just toss a handful of English words up in the air and let them free-fall into ‘English’ expressions.
Perhaps an unkind thing to say, but many Japanese — and this includes those whose work to some extent involves English — struggle with the language in dozens of situations. There is the impression that many are still wrestling with the basics of lesson one, page one. But their fondness for the look of English has for years prompted the Japanese to use English as others might use Zapf Dingbats, or the decorative Wingdings. It’s all for the look of the English words and attention to meaning comes last, if at all. Often a person will wear a jacket with nutty English across the back, and never once take the time to read or examine the words.
And so you have cosmetic companies advertising make up that leads to ‘beautiful human life’ as if cows too used lipstick. Tennis schools put up subway posters calling out, “Let’s tennis!” Some other interesting combinations still fresh in memory are: vicious tumors (malignant), danger water (poison) and lamp hat (lampshade). But for all that, none can hold a candle to the restaurant I went to last year, a restaurant that had taken the trouble to prepare a translation into English of each menu item. When the waiter wasn’t looking I slipped one of the menus into my bag. Take a look at the offerings on that menu (above) and imagine the dishes as described.
However, let us not point all our fingers at Japan. Below is an advertisement for an old age home I came across during a week on the Greek island of Santorini.

‘Since 40 year a home of love has been open in

Santorini. It is the home for elderly people “Agios

Euthnios.” Because we had the opportunity to know

closely the beautiful establishment of love, we have

thought that it worth to be known largely owing to the

inmate but also to the other inhabitants, i.e. at the time of the earthquake.’



  1. Just read Fractured delights and loved this. You've told me before of the funny things that Japanese come up with when they just "combine some words.

  2. This is too funny, but sweet as well in its good intentions. :)


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America