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Engrish – the terrifying truth

Japanese trash language of our fathers

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John Leyden's recent piece Geeks garbling Greek, heirs to Aristotle complain got us thinking about other hybrid linguistic monsters.

The Greeks are alarmed at the invasion of their language by English computer terminology. Trust me, you've got nothing to worry about. Just wait until you see what the Japanese have done to our beloved tongue - they have let slip the hideous beast that is Engrish.

The name gives it away - plenty of comedy lingo potential here. Just proceed directly to engrish.com and enjoy. I don't want to reveal too much, but here's a taster:

Shining Elegance
A high qualified feeling which appeals to our mind.
An admirable elegance that makes us wide-eyed.
Authentic elegance has an incredible power which changes the surrounding atmosphere.
THIS IS SUPER!

Believe it or not, this is the blurb from a Japanese frying pan. What would Shakespeare say? Actually, he wouldn't say anything - he'd have a bloody fit.

Ok - it's pretty easy to mock the deficiencies of people writing in a non-native language. But what happens when a group of people who can speak English perfectly well decide to knock it about a bit? The answer is Singlish, as spoken by the good burghers of Singapore. Take a good solid Anglo-Saxon base, throw in a bit of Chinese and Malay, and this is what you get:

Ah Kwa: 'But Beng, you don't like that lah!....Aiyahh, why cannot one?'
Ah Beng: 'Aiyah, if I marry you huh, wait sekali they find out you actually like...like that type one, how man?'
Ah Kwa: 'But Beng, you don't tell them can lor!'
Ah Beng: 'Wah lau, wait my mother find out, I die man! She know, sure my father know one, he know,I habase man!'
Ah Kwa: 'Eee yah, won't one lah, your ah chek won't know one lah!'
Ah Beng: 'Aiyah, cannot means cannot lah, can or not? Why you so like that one? You go marry that ang moh lah!'

Marvellous stuff. This gem is from a Singlish guide which you can peruse here. There are plenty of other sites on the subject. This one has a short glossary of terms which may or may not be useful when you're heading for Singapore.

Looking at the above, you might think that the poor old English language is taking a right beating around the globe. You'd be right, but we can still fight back. Spanish purists are lamenting the rise of Spanglish.

The fundamental issue is not the invasion of the language by English vocabulary. Unlike your French, the majority of Spanish speakers don't give two hoots about that. No, what they're worried about is the anglicisation of the grammar itself. Roberto González Echevarría outlines the facts in his article Is "Spanglish" a Language?

His example is that people might now say 'Cómo puedo ayudarlo?' (a literal transposition of the English 'How can I help you?"), rather than the proper 'Qué desea?' ('What would you like') Dangerous, dangerous stuff. I'd advise vigilance across the Hispanic world.

If you, like me, are feeling a little rattled by all this lexicographical malarkey, might I suggest you relax with a Japanese Postonic water, which: 'Moistens your body rapidly and softens your soul gently. Postonic is life us all.' Yes, It all makes perfect sense to me now.... ®

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