My fear is that people will think I am ridiculing the Japanese by posting these signs. As a former teacher of English as a Second Language, I am well aware of how difficult it is to learn English. The irregular spelling alone is enough to discourage anyone. If anything, my reason for posting these signs is to (1) acknowledge that difficulty, (2) to show my own puzzlement by a culture that I love but whose nuances I largely do not understand, and (3) to marvel at anyone who learns to speak and write Japanese. Three different registers/styles of writing and speaking exist, depending on whom you are speaking or writing to. The characters number in the many, many thousands. Almost everything in the Japanese language leaves me “lost in translation.” My admiration for those who master it is enormous. That said, here are three more signs.
I took all these photos in Osaka, a city very different from any other I experienced in Japan. It’s known for food; the natives are reputed to eat out six times a week. The streets with restaurants and food stalls was mobbed.
The “NY Style Monster Pallet” sign flummoxed me for a minute. Then I remembered that R and L are sounds very difficult for Japanese to distinguish. Aha! It’s a parfait.
Quark is a store that sells real watches. As opposed to unreal watches? I suspect they are replicas of high-end brands.
And my favorite: Grilled Hormone. I was stymied. Is it estrogen? Testosterone? A thyroid factor? Look at the picture—it’s pieces of something. I’m thinking that something might be pieces of a gland that secretes a hormone. Your guess is as good as mine. Hungry?
Not many people in Japan speak English, so their signs sometimes gave me pause. Often, it seemed as if any two or three words chosen at random from an English dictionary would suffice to name something.
This was a small hotel in Arashiyama, where we went to see a magnificent and enormous bamboo grove. I still wonder what went on inside that pension.
At one entrance to our hotel in Okayama we were greeted by this holiday sign. It did make me smile.
In Tokyo, we came across this restaurant. Some places that serve only horsemeat have photos or drawings of horses outside to enlighten the tourist. No images of raccoons were seen here. I’m still wondering. Roadkill sushi?
I saw many interesting signs on our recent trip to Japan. At times it appeared people used an English dictionary and juxtaposed any two random words. I’ll show you some of those signs soon.
One morning at the breakfast buffet in Okayama (all hotels have both Western and Japanese food to choose from), I came across the following dish:
You can see by the gravy marks on the side of the dish that some people found it irresistible. I eat just about everything, but I hurried past this offering. I like salt. I like squid. Guts? Not so much. Maybe I would have called it Salted Squid Innards. Not much better. Any suggestions?
My friend Cami knew I would love these definitions and ideas. I do, I do. I think you will, too.
WHO ON EARTH DREAMS THESE UP?
(Definition: a lover of words and wordplay)
Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!
How does Moses make tea? Hebrews it.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a typo.
I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went and then it dawned on me.
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club but I’d never met herbivore.
When chemists die, they barium.
I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
Broken pencils are pointless.
What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
I dropped out of communism class because of terrible Marx.
I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last.
© Judi Birnberg
In Just My Typo, edited by Drummond Moir (gotta love his name), he cites a 19th century example of carelessness:
A New Orleans cotton broker sent a telegraph to New York, asking if he should buy cotton at the current prices. He received an answer of “No price too high.” Naturally, he bought as much as he could, only to discover that the answer should have been punctuated as follows: “No. Price too high.”
One tiny dot on paper can make a world of difference.
Will she be discreet?
These two words are pronounced identically and are commonly mistaken for each other.
DISCREET means circumspect, prudent, careful. If you are discreet, you will avoid gossiping or criticizing others. You try to avoid embarrassing others. Roger promised he would be discreet after his best friend told him he was thinking of divorcing his fourth wife.
DISCRETE means singular, unconnected, separate. Academy Awards are given in multiple discrete categories.