Right before I started working at Tarcher Penguin, they published a book called "Engrish," which was basically a photo book of signs, ads or labels or streetsigns, written in extremely poor English by someone who is not a native speaker of English. The ideas are there, and then a whole bunch of worms swim around that connect to the concept but not each other. When I saw the book, it was kind of a relief to know that other people found this really funny, since I always had but wondered if it wasn't somehow racist to feel that way? Well, I do think it's funny, and others think it's funny, and until I hear an Asian saying that it hurts their feelings, I will continue to enjoy it. The following was copied (probably illegally) from the A.V.Club, the entertainment arm of The Onion. I've been subscribed to the AV blog for a week or so now, and I like their coverage and, so far, their point of view.
As always, it wouldn’t be a Cheap Toy Roundup without at least one awkward import with packing that makes random-at-best stabs at the English language, then kicks it while it lies bleeding in the gutter. Music Phone is particularly enthusiastic about the butchery: The box is positively covered with approximations of familiar English toy-packaging phrases. “The cartoon shape, interesting function,” proclaims one pink bubble of text. The green bubble next to it answers “The kid studies musical teacher To the kid’s vivid education start from here!” Random asterisks suggest that phrases like “Correctly choose standard pronunciation, graceful tweedle” are footnotes, but to what? The fun continues on the side of the box: “There is the keep company with of phone of the cartoon music phone, I can study to more music every day, more fun.” Now that’s enthusiasm! And on the back, there are even helpful instructions for phone use: “Press The Animal Head Key, Will Send Out Each Wow.” Okay, clear enough… especially by comparison with further instruction: “While converting to look for function, the telephone will send out the interjection of animal or (the numeral read a sound, color name) When you press opposite in response to of key, the telephone will deliver OK voice. When you press wrong……” But be careful! The toy you’re actually looking at in the open-fronted box may not be the real color it appears to be! “Color and packaging of the product real object have a dissimilarity to please take real object color as quasi.” And as a further warning, this toy has apparently killed before: “Contain the small parts has already suffocate dangerous, not for children under 3 years.” No problem; those children under 3 years whom this phone has not already suffocate dangerous wouldn’t enjoy it as much as adults will, even if it does start vivid education in malapropisms.
I have my own shorthand for this,which is simply "ESL" English as a Second Language. As in: that e-mail was totally ESL.
I realize that if this is offensive, it's not just about Asians. I recently went poking around (did I mention this?) about the song "Little Green Bag" by the George Baker Selection. I loved the song but found it very weird. First of all the verse and the chorus seemed to come from two different songs. Also, the lyrics were very strange. The lyrics might have come from a psychedelic song, but the music, although weird, was a pretty straightforward composition, without "trippy" effects. My researched divulged that George Baker was Dutch! ESL! Well, it doesn't explain the oddness of the music, but it sure says something about the lyrics.
I just check out a video on YouTube of Baker singing the song live in 2008 (oldies time: Baker was 63 at the time and the song was a hit in 1970). You can't really hear it on the studio recording, but in the 2008 video, you can REALLY hear his accent.
Here's another one: The Red Elvises. Gotta love the Red Elvises. They're a rock and surf band who I think are Russian folks who now live here. Or something. My friend John Andrews raved to me about them, and they're very wonderful.
I don't know why my Amazon Associates gizmo stopped working. I want everyone to know when I kvell about my Kindle.