More people speak Mandarin, Swedish is more fun, and Romance languages sound better in bed (a true acid test), but like it or not, English is now the global idiom. There are many reasons - historic, economic, military, cultural (BTW, you can add "imperialism" after each of those) - but it really comes together as a reckoning force in places catering to tourists. And invasions. As native English-speakers we should be honoured, right? Who cares if Webster's and The Oxford Concise in the hands of foreign mining interests yield familiar words minced in an unrecognizable salmagundi. (Yes, you'll have to palm one of those volumes to find that one.)
Here's the problem. In their haste to adapt, many cultures have jumped on the English bandwagon without knowing where they're going or how to steer. Inevitably this has led to serious butchery of the King's English - a global scourge of malapropisms and misspellings. Nobody has done it better than the Japanese, with their abstract interpretations of verbal iconography, pervasive enough to have spawned it's own industry: "Jinglish."
Engrish, Japlish and Janglish are other terms for Japanese English, but Jinglish says it best: most of the English is used in advertising, with no concern for what it actually means, only that it looks or sounds good - like a jingle. Several websites devoted to the distillation and culture of what is essentially nonsense ( engrish.com being the consistently riotous), can't do justice to seeing it in real life. A list of gems from my last trip to Japan: Don't worry, be smile (restaurant table card); Please remind that it is easy to be drunk in the upper air (on the back of an airline seat); Please remember to lock up a key (hot-spring locker room); The Wildnature Glow Up the Land (National Park bumper sticker). And, of course, nothing beats a good Jinglish t-shirt slogan ( F**k off-I already has enough friends!) , which seem to aim for maximum ridiculousness ( Seeking their own personality, it is good to be sticky about things, isn't? Glittering curiosity. ), approach haiku ( Native irreligious language. War, no nukes. Native future innocent landscape.), or be in search of a bowling team:
Try To Be Dream
Jinglish isn't alone. As China prepared for the 2008 Summer Olympics, English signs popped up everywhere, even more nonsensical, because, like most Chinese manufactures, they were Jinglish knock-offs. Aware of this embarrassment, the government began a program to clean up Beijing's Chinglish signage; in typical heavy-handed fashion, authorities asked residents to report the visible use of erroneous English, which they did in droves: Come in is forbidden in case of penalty (no trespassing); Welcome to come (enter); Receives the silver (cashier). Chinese entrepreneurs liked the t-shirt idea, too, adding the mystifying dimension of not finishing a sentence:
The fact that no one understands doesn't
They call it "PMS" because "Mad Disease"
Japan and China might have figured a way to make money from these miss-steps, but the phenomenon really knows no borders. Why? The answer ranges from the structure and workings of the language being translated, to our fondness for adapting words, expressions or symbols from other cultures as a measure of sophistication and cosmopolitan thinking, to phonetic interpretation and plain misinformation. Which makes the milieu ripe for a bathroom book whose title - God Damn the English - would be a scrambled translation of a commonly uttered epithet in global travel, "The Goddamn English."
And nowhere are the Brits more damned than their former colonies. The Earl of Smithwick must be gouging an eye out with his monacle at some of the whimsy in India and Nepal, such as: Flim and Yak cheese (trekking store sign, Gulmarg); or Hole sale outlet (clothing store in Kathmandu, cruelly adjacent to the main prostitute drag); not to mention the mulligatawny of tea-house menu items encountered while trekking in Nepal: Apple filter (fritter), Cock (coke), potato cheeps (chips), mass potatoes (mash), kitsch-ep (ketchup), spigot cheese sauce (spaghetti), chat brand steak (chateaubriand), and coconut deaness (Danish).
While these sweet nothings rightly make us laugh at ourselves, the folly of our own tongue gets most interesting when translations involve serious concerns. A friend recently shared excerpts from the inflight magazine of the Afghani national airline, Ariana, concerning a new route to Turkey: Aryaturizm is looking forward that can serve you in Istanbul and committed for excellent hostility . And, "brimming with even more honesty" their tourism Kabul promotion: It is mentionable that its national museum... containing an impressive collection of artifacts illustrating Afghan past from prehistory to modern times, it is explainable that by the sham lastly invasion of some foreign countries with their internal knavish treacherous cooperators mugged and razed to ground our remarkable Kabul. These greedy cruel invaders even transferred our antique and ancient artifacts in to their own countries. The Rebellions bevies made an assault and deteriorate our Kabul. All the sightseeing places have been eliminated and it is no wonder that you will be depressed if you have a short glance on them.
Sounds like they need some good ol' Jinglish to lighten things up in Afghanistan. Like this bumper sticker from Sapporo: No war! Let's peace up the world!