Ode to Engrish

Another backdated post in which I reminisce about the joy to be found in Asians using and abusing the English language – 21st September, 2013

Engrish.

Ahh Engrish.

It is one of my favourite things ever. In fact, I am positively against too much quality English teaching in Asia. I fear that if high standards become too widespread, Engrish might die out and be lost completely.

My love for Engrish is unchangexl

My love for Engrish is unchangexl

It makes me positively happy that across Asia there are people being paid good money to do a worse job than your basic Google Translate function – filling an entire continent with gibberish on signage, packaging and leaflets.

Although the complete gibberish is, to me, a little disappointing. You get this a lot on Tshirts:  the jazzy design will be supplemented with Western-looking text which could well have been produced by my 10 month old son during his “let’s smash my hands down on Mummy’s keyboard’ sessions.

These ones make you feel a lot like your eyesight is failing, because until you establish they are just a random series of Roman characters, you are straining to decipher the words. This can lead to a lot of questionable staring at people’s chests.

No, I prefer the ones which look ALMOST right – till you look more closely.

What else are you going to use for prinking?

Well what else are you going to use for prinking?

Then there are the ones where all the words are spelt correctly but the meaning has definitely been scrambled during the translation process.

Like the dirty, dirty bitch that it is

Like the dirty, dirty bitch that it is

Or the ones which are vaguely understandable – but just sound bonkers:

Couldn't have put it better...

Couldn’t have put it better…

And of course, the ones which are perfectly acceptable – but carry slightly unusual connotations to a native speaker:

Sounds painful

Sounds painful

(Actually, based on my experience of massage in Taiwan, that last one is a fairly accurate description. I had bruises in the shape of thumbprints after one particularly brutal session administered by a tiny girl who looked like a stiff breeze would knock her down.)

An ill-chosen brand name or two also have the power to delight.

Goon. That is all.

Goon. That is all.

Another product that's unlikely to make it in the international marketplace

Another product that’s unlikely to make it in the international marketplace

And I know I’ve mentioned it before, but seriously, they did not do market research on Westerners for this particular delicacy.

What? Not tempted by a taste?

What? Not tempted by a taste?

I’ve delighted in Engrish in Japan too (they excel at it there). It’s hard to express the simple pleasure I got in Nagasaki from a hotel razor adorned with the words: Enjoy a happy shaving for your fresh life.

But living abroad for longer turned up a wealth of examples. I wish I had documented more of them but, for now, here are some of the ones I  – with help from friends and family – did manage to collect.

We never plucked up the courage to try these 'special' porridge oats

We never plucked up the courage to try these ‘special’ porridge oats

A nice thought, weirdly expressed. Welcome to Asia

A nice thought, weirdly expressed. Welcome to Asia

More sound Engrish advice

More sound Engrish advice

Toilet humour AND Ingrish. My cup runneth over...

Toilet humour AND Ingrish. My cup runneth over…

Engrish makes me happy. Please share your Engrish discoveries from around the world with me!

And if you want to enjoy more Engrish, there’s always the ever-fabulous www.engrish.com

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4 thoughts on “Ode to Engrish

  1. Jenny – these are priceless! I have a few classics from a trip to Croatia a few years back. I’ll send them your way! Andrew xx

  2. This made my day! I’ve not take too many pictures of the signs I’ve seen. The funniest one I was in an Indian airport that offered to ‘dry clean your hands’. I’m guessing the box it was on contained hand sanitizer.

    Generally it’s my conversations with non-native (or even native) speakers that amuse me http://acollectionofmusings.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/english-is-the-easiest-language-to-speak-badly-george-bernhard-shaw/

  3. We saw a Wanko shop in Beijing, along with a whole load of “I heart BJ” t shirts.
    My husband also received some tools made in China, complete with instructions on how they shouldn’t be stored in a dankly place (damp?) and how the user needed to ensure there was a draughtly flow when using them!

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