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  • Jim: Interesting. The band names remind me of a shiny pink A4 file-folder I bought in Japan in the 70s. Its cover features brightly-dressed figures in various poses with inconsequential captions: “Ironing is my hobby”, “Wait a minute, I’ll change my hat”, “Isn’t it out of fashion to wear a well-starched shirt?”, “I made too many purchases this month”, and “I want to be a nice guy to my girl friend”, amongst others. It is still a prized possession.

  • I was in Japan a long time ago, but am still haunted by the bizarre English I saw on T-shirts (‘boy sister’, ‘vigorous throw up’ etc) drink cans, and in branding: I couldn’t resist a pair of walkman earphones labelled ‘Turbo Nude Club’ – I just had to join!

  • Great post and very informative due to the student perspectives. I love the incorporation of English into the Japanese language. Indeed, it is the subject of my ongoing PhD thesis. I am always fascinated by people’s reaction to this creative use of English, especially when words like ‘bizarre’, ‘crazy’, ‘non-sensical’ and ‘incorrect’ are used to describe the way that English has been adapted to the Japanese language. Often people who put forward these views, that English has been used in ‘bizarre’ ways in Japan, forget about the highly creative uses of English within the English language itself. Think about British bands with the names: ‘The Arctic Monkeys’, ‘The Pigeon Detectives’, and ‘Biffy Clyro’. These are just accepted, but when foreign bands have names such as ‘Bump of Chicken’, people often highlight these ‘strange’ uses of English. Think about products in the UK and US too such as ‘Shake & Vac’, ‘Chicken Tonight’, and ‘Cillit Bang’. And creative blendings of words such as ‘brunch’, ‘guesstimate’ and ‘chillax’.

    What Japan is doing with English is highly creative and meets the needs of Japanese society. This makes it a fascinating area of study, especially in relation to the different variety of English which is studied in schools throughout the country, mainly used for performance on proficiency tests which control entrance to universities and employment.

  • Thanks a lot for your responses, Gill (hello!), Peter and Keith. The debate is raging on – with recent Guardian, BBC and other reports of the NHK being taken to court for using too many English words. My feeling is closer to yours – it’s interesting, often very creative or just bringing a smile to your face. Gill, I’d treasure that folder, too! In fact, I’d like one – but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the messages on the passing t-shirts!

  • […] and as English is embraced more than other foreign languages. For example, according a recent article, nearly three quarters of Japanese companies require TOEIC (Test of English for International […]