Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kyoto, Japan

Everybody makes fun of signs written in English -- or sort of English -- in non-English-speaking countries.  There are entire websites devoted to it.  But I have to say I'm kind of liking a lot of the signs I've seen here in Kyoto. We have some specific language that we use when writing public announcements, and after being here a few days our "Official English for Signs" now feels kind of stultified, unnecessarily formal and restrictive, as well as being just a bit unfriendly.
I saw a sign today outside a door full of fire equipment. Instead of "Keep doorway clear" or whatever, the sign said "Please don't put anything around here."  Perfectly grammatical, gets the point across. I liked it.

OTOH, there are a lot of signs -- and even more T-shirts -- with messages that seem a bit random. Examples from this week include:
Cheerfulness Athletic
Meet stuck to float
Sail gracefully an advantage
Be smile finedays
Hide with spread beaver appear*

Many of the shirts have a sense of encouraging a positive outlook and/or seem to be an exhortation to kind, cheerful behaviour. I surmise that some might be literal translations of Kanji characters that just don't quite bring their connotation with them when converted character-by-character.

Anyway, it's been a fun read over the last few days...

*That last one might almost make sense if "Hide" and "Spread Beaver" are bands that are appearing together...


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