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Those tricky foreign words

Social Chaos: Bill's Briefs

A sale! Japanese style

Good intentions are often misplaced as in the above photo. A young ad man proudly showed off his language skill and used this popular English phrase as an eye-catching slogan. It was a great success among foreigners who came in droves with their cameras. Surely the store owner was pleased.

Similarly a Vietnamese restaurant near my Tokyo apartment was beleaguered by foreigners having their photo taken in front. The owner never understood why they didn’t enter his lovely restaurant, My Dung.

Likewise, Americans with their poor language skills provide foreigners with many a laugh. Chinese characters are particularly enjoyable when seen upside down, backwards or just plain crazy.

Despite the tattoo artist’s assurance that it means “women liberation” or “biggest and best,” it might really translate “women flower church” and “number one pumpkin.”

Last month my partner and I spotted a muscular gym bunny proudly sporting a giant tattoo on his neck. I said it meant “power;” my partner disagreed and a slight hissy fit ensued. He then slowly (as to a four-year-old) wrote two characters. Microscopic examination revealed a millimeter difference in the length of one stroke making one of them “chikara: power.” The young stud was proudly displaying the other one pronounced “ka” meaning “mosquito.”

Finding topics for the past year

Finding topics for Bill’s Briefs with humor and an occasional naughty angle has been fun, but challenging. At first I wrote about returning to live in the USA after 40 years in Tokyo and getting used to confusing new slang words, TV references and political issues. Even now I talk about Republican tea-baggers and fail to see what is so funny. SNL always befuddled me until I realized the letters had nothing to do with the National Soccer League. A major nightmare was/is getting used to politically correct language. What is wrong with “actress” and “waitress?”

With the passing months it got a little harder to come up with topics, but I managed.

Often I think of a brilliant idea, but it is gone before I can write it down. This happens usually at night when trying to sleep, so now I keep pen and paper on the night stand. Unfortunately, later I can’t always read what I wrote half-asleep and in the dark. For example: “munks the hnng,” “maturation contests,” “my favorite bykes” or “glory ploes.” If I could unravel these scrawled mysteries, I know I’d find some topic gems.

Any suggestions? Drop me a line.

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Posted by on May 10, 2012. Filed under Bill's Briefs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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