Monday, October 17, 2005

both sides of the fence

There was a girl I knew from vaguely from college who once asked me what the Japanese character she had tatooed on her arm meant. "At the store they told me it means peace!" In combinations with other characters, yes, it can have that meaning. But sitting on its own on her arm it conjured up the rows of discount stores in Tokyo where the character screams "cheap! cheap!"

Engrish.com has been documenting the hilarious abuses to the English language committed in Japan for years, so I was extremely pleased to find the hanzismatter.com website in their links section which somewhat obsessively documents American mistakes in Chinese and Japanese character tatoos. While most of his entries are petty examples of upside-down characters and missed strokes (on the level of spelling mistakes), some of them are disturbingly funny. Ergo the marine who wanted "tank" on his arm and instead got "toilet bowl/feeding trough"(tank, get it?), or the unexplained tatoo of "shit/excrement" on one guy's thigh.

A few weeks ago I was out with a Japanese friend who had studied for a year in London, and she regaled me with the unbelievable names of Japanese restaurants out there. Apparently the largest Japanese restaurant chain in London is Wagamama (directly translated: "selfish"). Somewhat puzzling was "Moshi Moshi Sushi" (Hello Sushi), but the real corker was a Sukunai, which means "small (portions)".

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wagamama FAQ
Quote: translated from japanese it means ' wilful / naughty child'

With it being a multinational company, I assume they researched the name first. My Japanese friend also commented on the name when they came to England (Manchester store).
Japanese = modern = cool in England (or it used to a few years ago), so anything that is Japanese = cool. Its just like Engrish, just for show.


Great site by the way.

Jamie said...

I checked that link you sent, and unfortunately, despite their big multinationalistic, they still don't understand their own company name. Wagamama is a simple adjective meaning willful and selfish, nothing specifically about children (or mama's for that matter).

You're definitely right on about it being just for show, what with Japanese cuisine and culture booming in the East Coast US and Britian these days. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

It's written in katakana, so maybe a slang word or two/three joined words?
I always smile when I see tatoo palours advertising Chinese characters. I certainly don't know what they mean, and I'd never trust anyone in England to say what it really was :P. I don't think they'd be too happy if you stood there with kanji dictionary correcting the mistakes.