Monday, September 12, 2005

T-shirt English

One of the things that visitors to Tokyo laugh themselves silly about are some of the English that appears on t-shirts in Tokyo. As a high school student here in 1984 on a short 3-week trip, I recall a young woman in Asakusa wearing a white t-shirt, apparently oblivious, that said in huge letters "Fuck Me!" A horny (read 'male') 16 year-old, I would have been more than happy to take her up on the invitation, which was, however, apparently made unknowingly. This was a case where the English was actually correct, which is definitely not the norm for t-shirt English.
There are various theories on the origin of some of these t-shirts, but my favorite is the secret English conspiracy one: Such blatantly cynical t-shirts were actually designed by jaded native speakers, sick of the idiocy of their companies, and of the idiocy of consumers who actually purchased such inane products. There might even be money paid to them by the English school owners, who have a stake in furthering the poor English so prevalent here.
On the Marunouchi subway line this morning, I stood strap-hanging next to a guy with a t-shirt, yellow letters on a green shirt, which said "Advanced corn grown to order". He also wore a meshball cap with a foam front that would not have been out of place on a mid-western farmer, probably driving a John-Deere tractor. I was impressed with the consistency of the look: Inane English and his cap were certainly a set.
This evening, in Tokyo station, I spotted a t-shirt on a young woman that read: "Fuck juice gotten on this side". Hmm...I don't know exactly what the cynical native was thinking on this one...I think they must be working in groups, and that they are actually inside jokes for a group of sick minds.
When I become the jaded, bitter company employee that last week's fun leads me to fear, at least I know where I can turn for a second (third?) career...


Blogger sarah said...

I don't know if it was in a magazine or a short story, but I read something this past year about using T-shirt English as a daily horoscope here in Japan. The first one you see will set the tone for the rest of the day (and perhaps be a predictor for things to come...? Your 16-year-old self would have been happy with that kind of omen... ;) ! Nice writing! Gambatte

12:12 AM  

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