Inspired by a recent post about a T-shirt where an Asian stereotype was saying I SPEAK ENGRISH, I thought of the perennial online popularity of “Engrish” in general. Engrish.com, one of the oldest such compendia on the Web, offers a selection of photos from clothing, packaging, menus, signs, etc., largely from Asian companies. All of these photos have been collected for their supposed humor value because they contain text poorly translated into English, English text that seems incongruous with whatever it’s describing, and/or place names that sound taboo in English. Examples below the cut [some taken from the Adult Engrish section and thus possibly NSFW].
In the “poor translation” category, there are examples such as this menu, found in Saigon, Vietnam:
In the “incongruous” category, there is this T-shirt, possibly quoting Nirvana lyrics:
In the “homophonic to a taboo” category, there is this restaurant sign:
I have mixed feelings about the prevalence of the online mockery of “Engrish.” While computerized or poor translations provide hilarious results, no matter what the source and destination languages, Engrish.com and Engrishfunny.com, two main sites of “Engrish” stuff, show a disproportionate amount of examples from Asian countries. The comparatively large number of Asian examples of “Engrish” probably relates to the common use in Asian countries of English as a lingua franca or “international language” [see this discussion about “Japalish,” or the incorporation of English loanwords into Japanese, here at the Internet TESL Journal]. Sites such as Engrishfunny.com eschew the broader cultural context of English use around the world in favor of a dismissive laugh at the expense of supposedly ignorant foreigners.