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Bad Engrish Menu
March 8, 2006 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Bad Engrish can be found on popular sites on the net, and not so well known as well.
There are some that consider such sites racist, but it also cuts both ways.

(More inside)

posted by Vicarious (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Welcome to Metafilter. Have the "more inside" part ready to paste straight away. Cheers!
posted by fire&wings at 3:33 PM on March 8, 2006


I thought it's interesting the prevalence of sites that cater to this sort of rib-jabbing. While I myself think that it's all in good nature, there is the nagging fear that some of it might continue the stereotype that asian immigrants are a bunch of illiterates.

It's also scary to think that a lot of engrish can be found on American television, further casting Asians in a negative light. I don't feel that it's appropriate to further certain stereotypes on television, but for some reason the net seems ok, as long as it is in "good humor."

Thoughts? This is my first post BTW.
posted by Vicarious at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2006


I'll have the fried beef rice with scorn and egg please.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2006


Mihail?
posted by Gator at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2006


the stereotype that asian immigrants are a bunch of illiterates

Hmm. That's the opposite of the essentializing sterotype I see a lot of. Maybe if you mix equal parts of both you make Truth or Cold Fusion or something! It's Cooking with Sterotypes!
posted by freebird at 3:37 PM on March 8, 2006


"there is the nagging fear that some of it might continue the stereotype that asian immigrants are a bunch of illiterates."

You made this part up. The stereotype is that Asian immigrants are *more* educated and literate. Great link. Poor conclusion.

But your first link is hilarious, so I forgive you.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:38 PM on March 8, 2006


Meaningless, decorative pseudo-English is hilarious. So are Americans who get kanji tattoos that they can't read. Which of these two assertions is racist? Both? Neither? Discuss.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:38 PM on March 8, 2006


Hmm. That's the opposite of the essentializing sterotype I see a lot of. Maybe if you mix equal parts of both you make Truth or Cold Fusion or something! It's Cooking with Sterotypes!

Indeed, however where I live, if someone wants to immitate a person of Asian culture, they usually start talking in broken english. Must be the midwest attitude.
posted by Vicarious at 3:39 PM on March 8, 2006


You made this part up. The stereotype is that Asian immigrants are *more* educated and literate.

Yeah, thinking on it a bit more I might be making it up a bit, but there is a grain of truth to it in my mind, something that nags me a little bit.


As freebird said, maybe it is mixing it up in a strange American way.
posted by Vicarious at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2006


The song in the video is terrific. Anyone know what it is?
posted by theperfectcrime at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2006


metafilter:Rurality Salad, with.....retchup..
posted by hortense at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2006


Vicarious:

( education || literacy ) != fluency in English
posted by S.C. at 3:55 PM on March 8, 2006


When it's the web, looking at written Engrish, it's just laughing at the language use... some of the stuff is unintentionally hilarious.

On TV, it's more personal... you're laughing more at a person than the language.

Perhaps that's why you feel differently about them?

My stereotype for Asians, btw, is that their average intelligence is noticeably higher than that of Americans, and that they mostly work like crazy on education. I have a lot of respect for them.
posted by Malor at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2006


Bad Engrish was a shitty lock and loll band.

/jonson
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2006


Well look, asian attempts at english are a hell of a lot better than the (frankly non-existant) efforts of the average english speaker to attempt asian languages. How much japanese do you know? "Engrish" jokes are funny, but more than anything they show that at least asian people are trying to engage in cross-cultural communication.
posted by Jimbob at 4:08 PM on March 8, 2006


My stereotype for asians is that they are well educated, hard-working, and that they speak with an accent.

Or I could go with my stereotype of the strawberry generation... that they are lazy, reckless and self-centered... but look good in Prada.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:17 PM on March 8, 2006


Indeed, however where I live, if someone wants to immitate a person of Asian culture, they usually start talking in broken english. Must be the midwest attitude.
posted by Vicarious

I'm sure they do that with every sort of foreigner, not just Asian. And probably even people from other parts of their own country.
posted by Happy Monkey at 4:24 PM on March 8, 2006


Image hosting by Photobucket
posted by keswick at 4:31 PM on March 8, 2006


(oh, and mr_crash_davis wins)
posted by keswick at 4:32 PM on March 8, 2006


I amazed at how English speakers are so catered to around much of the world.

I've never seen anything other than English at my local "international" airport.

Also, I don't read Vietnamese, but I'm guessing the the signs on the transit busses here in SoCal read something like; "No pets on moving vehicular unless unless tightly fastened between pants."
posted by snsranch at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2006


That video was awesome.
posted by fire&wings at 4:39 PM on March 8, 2006


ROR
posted by ijoshua at 4:39 PM on March 8, 2006



posted by ijoshua at 4:42 PM on March 8, 2006




Second and third languages are difficult to master.
posted by skallas at 4:46 PM on March 8, 2006


I amazed at how English speakers are so catered to around much of the world.

I've always assumed that English is the most common second language (for whatever reasons), so it is just easier to translate everything into English since it is more likely that a random traveler will speak English than Twi or Thai.
posted by Falconetti at 4:54 PM on March 8, 2006


That first link is great, and I love it when the professor explains exactly how the mistranslations happen:

Take #1313, "Benumbed hot vegetables fries fuck silk." It should read "Hot and spicy garlic greens stir-fried with shredded dried tofu." However, the mangled version above is not as mangled as it seems: it's a literal word-by-word translation, with some cases where the translator chose the wrong one of two meanings of a word:

First two characters: "ma la" meaning hot and spicy, but literally "numbingly spicy" -- it means a kind of Sichuan spice that mixes chilies with Sichuan peppercorn or prickly ash. The latter tends to numb the mouth. "Benumbed hot" is a decent, if ungrammatical, literal translation.

Next two: "jiu cai," the top greens of a fragrant-flowering garlic. There's no good English translation, so "vegetables" is just fine.

Next one: "chao," meaning stir-fried, quite reasonably rendered as "fries" (should be "fried," but that's a distinction English makes and Chinese doesn't).

Finally: "gan si" meaning shredded dried tofu, but literally translated as "dry silk." The problem here is that the word "gan" means both "to dry" and "to do," and the latter meaning has come to mean "to fuck." Unfortunately, the recent proliferation of Colloquial English dictionaries in China means people choose the vulgar translation way too often, on the grounds that it's colloquial. Last summer I was in a spiffy modern supermarket in Taiyuan whose dried-foods aisle was helpfully labeled "Assorted Fuck." The word "si" meaning "silk floss" is used in cooking to refer to anything that's been julienned -- very thin pommes frites are sold as "potato silk," for instance. The fact that it's tofu is just understood (sheets of dried tofu shredded into julienne) -- if it were dried anything else it would say so.

posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on March 8, 2006


I've never seen anything other than English at my local "international" airport.

In my nieghborhood in the good ol provincial US of frigg'n almost all of the community center, ATM, Gas Station and park signage is in English, Spanish, Korean, Vienamese and Tagalog.
posted by tkchrist at 5:01 PM on March 8, 2006


I amazed at how English speakers are so catered to around much of the world.

If the rest of the world would just quit enabling my ignorance maybe I'd pick up another language.
posted by mullacc at 5:05 PM on March 8, 2006


Jimbob: "'Engrish' jokes are funny, but more than anything they show that at least asian people are trying to engage in cross-cultural communication."

Actually, a lot of the Engrish that comes out of Japan is not communicative, it's decorative. Once you get over the idea that the English-like text you see is actually supposed to mean something, it becomes a lot easier to stomach.

What was a really weird moment for me was seeing a sign in the window of a restaurant in a trendy part of Tokyo that read "Every Tuesday Holiday"--that's it, no Japanese. You need to know at least a little Japanese to understand that this means "We're closed on tuesdays," but you need to know a little English to get started with it.
posted by adamrice at 5:08 PM on March 8, 2006


One of my students (in Seoul) told me a joke the other day:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages?

a: Bilingual

What do you call someone who speaks three languages?

b: Trilingual

What do you call someone who speaks one language?




a: American
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:11 PM on March 8, 2006


Vicarious: Indeed, however where I live, if someone wants to immitate a person of Asian culture, they usually start talking in broken english. Must be the midwest attitude.

oy! that's why I moved out from Chicago to San Francisco, btw, when we come to such simplistic conclusions the corollary is that I imply from your misspelling of 'immitate' that you're of Asian descent yourself?
posted by infini at 5:11 PM on March 8, 2006


Jeez, this place is turning into fark. Even Ric Romero has made an appearance.
posted by nightchrome at 5:20 PM on March 8, 2006


Joseph Gurl---OUCH! Are Americans really percieved that way? (Oh well, on my way back to watch a mindless news show and talk crap about A-rabs.) 'Cause I really can't imagine why!
posted by snsranch at 5:29 PM on March 8, 2006


I love the Dick Cheney references....
posted by Debaser626 at 5:31 PM on March 8, 2006


China is really starting to piss me off. I don't really have much against outsoursing or manufacturing over there, but in my business dealings the attitude of the Chinese is so much different than that of other Asian countries we deal with - like India, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.

The business culture there (at least that I've encountered) is totally without morals. People will lie, cheat, steal, break laws, and generally stop at nothing just to make a buck. I really hate to just label 1.5 billion people as crooks, but when 99% of the ones I encounter are, it's hard not to.

And also, the whole Communism thing bothers me too.
posted by b_thinky at 5:35 PM on March 8, 2006



posted by Malor at 5:40 PM on March 8, 2006


I admit, I'm a stupid midwesterner with no real second language skills. I'm trying to work my way through university, but unfortunately language has taken a back seat atm.

I agree that it is amazing and wonderful how many cultures cater to english speakers, too bad we can't say the same, except in our government publications and forms.

I plan on studying either spanish or an Asian language, both of which I figure will get me ahead of the game, at least a little.
posted by Vicarious at 5:45 PM on March 8, 2006


Definitely goes both ways.
posted by stray at 5:46 PM on March 8, 2006


b_thinky, your post suffers from a touch of Bad Engrish, or maybe just a typo -- perhaps you meant to write: "The business culture here is totally without morals."
posted by BT at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2006


In case anyone is wondering about ljoshua's picture (the menu that says "Fuck a fish head,") it's because in Mandarin Chinese the word for "dry" and "fuck" are very similar (gan first tone for the former, gan fourth tone for the latter.) Moreover, in simplified Chinese, they're written the same way.

Leads to all sort of fun if you're a beginner Chinese student and you're trying to get your dry cleaning done.
posted by alidarbac at 6:19 PM on March 8, 2006


That second part of your post would be relevant if it were produced by someone from China, rather than an American student born and raised.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 8:03 PM on March 8, 2006


Joseph Gurl---OUCH! Are Americans really percieved that way?

Yes, they are, often. And that joke is an old one, that Joseph Gurl's student might well have found here.

At the Korean Megacorp where I work, most of the guys I teach (a group which is mostly management, but includes some who are the equivalent of Joe Sixpack factory line workers) are at least functionally trilingual, if not better (usually Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese, to varying degrees).

And the gulf between Germanic or Romance languages and the languages of NE Asia is wide and deep. I picked up French, Spanish and German with little difficulty, but after ten years of (admittedly, extremely lazy and haphazard) trying, my Korean still sucks. It works in the opposite direction too -- no easy task.

Which is not to excuse Konglish, of course, which surrounds me and alternately amuses or infuriates me depending on my mood. Much of it, in the media and advertising, is, as adamrice says, decorative. You learn not to pay attention, or to be amused by it.

Also -- and I imagine it's the same in Japan and China as well -- the quality of English language education in Korea is execrable, if slowly improving. That doesn't help, and is a rant for another day.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:07 PM on March 8, 2006


Well, I liked this. I once owned and, to my eternal regret, lost a book for Chinese speakers called "English Slang and Cologuialisms." The format was a casual English phrase, followed by an example. Here are three I remember:

To skate on thin ice.
ex. "Watch it, you mugs, you're skating on thin ice."

My God.
ex. My God, you've killed him.

To give one's socks.
ex. "Watch it, you young scrundrel, or I'll sock you one over the ear hole."
posted by adgnyc at 8:09 PM on March 8, 2006


Whoa, engrish!

Have you guys seen this hilarious dub?
posted by blacklite at 9:03 PM on March 8, 2006


ROFL, Vicarious, fun FPP. Thank you and welcome. Here in Hell's Kitchen NYC there are a few fun Eastern restaurant names, like New Foo King, Yum Yum Bangkok or Fu Ying.

Having lived a decade in India and a year before that in Italy and Greece, I've really enjoyed countless, wonderful sign and menu mistakes/misspellings. My favorite part of the Jay Leno's Tonight Show show is when he makes fun of the writing/advertising errors in his "headlines" schtick.

My Wednesday job is working for a small Korean company doing all their business writing, catalogs and advertising, simply because they really struggle with Engrish. Try as I might to make sure what they print is correct English, somehow my work always gets mangled accidentally by one or another of the staff and ends up making me cross-eyed with frustration or bellylaughing.
posted by nickyskye at 10:24 PM on March 8, 2006


I'VE NEVER BEEN TO ENGRISH BEFORE
posted by cellphone at 10:42 PM on March 8, 2006


ha ha ha I accidentally wrote the Jay Leno Show show.
Some more hilarious Engrish sites.
posted by nickyskye at 11:08 PM on March 8, 2006


I used to volunteer for a literacy program, and ended up working with a lot of ESL learners.

I also find engrish.com hilarious.

To me, the one has nothing to do with the other. Funny misinterpretations don't feed into my concept of a culture. I often wonder how egregious our own mistakes are. Some of my mistakes made while learning Spanish cracked me up, once I realized what I'd done.

That said, I would never, ever direct an ESL learner to the site. It's a very sensitive issue.
posted by moira at 11:31 PM on March 8, 2006


[derail]

b_thinky:
The business culture there (at least that I've encountered) is totally without morals. People will lie, cheat, steal, break laws, and generally stop at nothing just to make a buck. I really hate to just label 1.5 billion people as crooks, but when 99% of the ones I encounter are, it's hard not to.

And also, the whole Communism thing bothers me too.


China's underlying culture is incredibly, ragingly no-holds-barred, cut-throat capitalist, and has been for thousands of years. In light of that, the past fifty or so years of Chinese communism barely counts as a fad. One single bloody peasant revolution can't stand up to millenia of deeply-ingrained cultural inertia.

[/derail]
posted by PsychoKick at 5:30 AM on March 9, 2006


"the quality of English language education in Korea is execrable"

It must be, if they were desperate enough to hire ...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:47 AM on March 9, 2006


Waaaaaatch it.

I'm a fuckin' superhero.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:48 PM on March 9, 2006


I find it interesting that the folks who put together the movie seem to evaluate the success of nations in terms of population, whereas most Americans judge it by quality of life.
posted by rush at 3:57 PM on March 9, 2006


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