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A great deal of ad copy in Japan appears bizarre to the native English speaker. But I suggest that it is not fractured English, or "Japlish" (Japanese English), as many folks refer to it. One way to interpret it would be simply as a design element used to add an exotic flair to the product. Either way, this "copy" is intended for a Japanese audience, so is better considered a bunch of individual words or phrases based on English vocabulary but not bound by the fetters of English grammar. If anything, I'd call it "English Japanese". The Japanese audience is content to enjoy the roman characters lined up on the page, even if the reader can't make sense of it. Still, they often do manage to understand the intended message.

Sound odd?

I don't think it should if you consider the penchant of Westerners to display and wear items adorned with Japanese or Chinese characters. The majority haven't a notion of what the characters say and I've seen some pretty silly stuff that would embarrass the wearers; if only they knew. Not long ago, I even spotted a T-shirt in Toronto with odd-looking Japanese writing on it that outright made fun of anybody who'd wear such an item. As a design element, the characters seen displayed on clothing, on products and in film can be equally as displeasing to the native as the often ugly nature of English (romanized text) designs used in Japan. As a quick example, I reently watched the movie "Dead Again" on local television. When the villain brings out his murder weapon before the film's climax, a pair of scissors presumably from Germany, they were stored in a box that had the Japanese word "okurimono" written in large ugly characters across the entire front. ("Okurimono means "gift" in English.) To make it even more laughable, our villain was holding the box such that the word appeared upside down on the screen. Maybe some day I'll start a list of these bizarre examples of characters used in the west; and there are MANY.

Sure, there is another type of strange English in this land as well; a fractured English usually stemming from bad translations by Japanese that is intended for foreigners. This most often appears in hotels, the transit system and other services accessed by foreign language speakers, and also as part of instruction manuals. I intend to list samples of these separately.

A. Ad Copy
(Note: you can scroll through the pages of this section by clicking on each page's graphic image)

Japanese Household Products

Japanese Food Products

Japanese Apparel

  • Until I get better at photographing these when I spot them, I'll have to offer these as text-only examples.


B. Fractured English from Japan
(Note: you can scroll through the pages of this section by clicking on each page's graphic image)


C. Fractured English from other Asian Countries


Last updated 03.11.22