madness in the metropolis 

Forever Protector of Old Ladies

Tokyo Tales is proud to be the first result on Google for Japlish, the misappropriation of English words and phrases for use on t-shirts here in Japan. Or adverts, or song lyrics, or whatever; but t-shirts tend to provide the most fertile ground.

The inverse of Japlish would, I suppose, be 英本語 (eihongo), but knowing how Japanese works, 英和語 (eiwago) would probably make more sense. (Eiwa is at least a word, meaning "England and Japan", or "English-Japanese", whereas I don't think eihon is. Or if it is, it probably means "English book". The final "go" is the suffix for language. But maybe I should deliberately pick a word that isn't a word... aaaanyway.)

If Japlish's natural habitat is Japanese people wearing badly written t-shirts they don't understand, then the inverse's natural habitat is surely... westerners getting kanji tattoos.

As I was doing a bit of browsing this afternoon, I tripped across the excellent Hanzi Smatter, a weblog devoted to critiquing badly done (and often just plain wrong) kanji (hanzi in Chinese) tattoos. Not just tattoos actually, but also t-shirts, rugs, bumper stickers, and so on, but the tattoos are clearly the best part. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something... schadenfreudelicious about the idea of someone getting "small penis" forever etched into their forearm, when they thought they'd asked for "wild man".

This is going to be my new favourite blog, I can just tell.

The author is a Chinese-American chap with a keen eye for a misplaced radical. I share his amazement that people will happily scar themselves for life with ideograms, the meaning of which they have no hope of understanding. I run (though I haven't checked in on it for a while) The Kanji SITE, which is a resource for people studying Japanese kanji and I am ALWAYS getting e-mail from two kinds of people:

1) American teenagers who want to know the kanji for carburettor, so they can get it tattooed on the back of their neck; and
2) American teenagers who have already gotten what they were told was the kanji for carburettor tattooed on the back of their neck, and just want to check that that's actually what it means. (Sadly, it never means carburettor. It usually means princess. Or tofu. But never carburettor.)

I never reply. Recently I just haven't had time, but more fundamentally there's just no way I'm comfortable with telling people "Hell yes, tattoo this on the back of your neck. Of course it means carburettor!" because... I'm... not... Japanese. Or Chinese. Or anywhere good enough at either language to be an authority on the subject.

If someone mails me a request for the Japanese kanji for the Japanese word "budo", which they know means "martial art", then I can do it (武道), because I can't really get that wrong. But I'm not about to offer a translation of my own. Nuh-huh. Perhaps I'll set up a proper tattoo service on the site when I finally overhaul it, but I'm making damn sure it's plastered with more comprehensive disclaimers than those waivers you have to sign when you volunteer for medical trials: "Warning! You may end up with 'princess' tattooed on the back of your neck!".

Let me say it again: I will not take responsibility for your tofu carburettor. Thank you.

Posted by chris at 12:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Kanji SITE props

kanji - lit,"Chinese characters"Spotted while flicking through the latest copy of Metropolis yesterday: an article on on-line Japanese study. I skimmed through it briefly, assuming that there'd be no mention of The Kanji SITE anywhere - but whaddaya know? According to the last paragraph, the site is "clever and irreverent". Gosh. The author might also have added "infrequently updated and often hard to access", but I'm not going to argue that one.

Posted by chris at 02:34 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE mention in the Japan Times

Woo! The Kanji SITE gets a mention in today's Japan Times, an English-language newspaper. This week's Kanji Clinic column surveys cyberspace kanji resources, of which I am one, natch. The site gets the Best Name award as well, actually. Gosh. I can feel it all going to my head already - though that might just be due to the fumes from our copious bug spray antics earlier today.

Posted by chris at 05:48 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE redesign

This is turning into a bad week.

The Kanji SITE is down at the moment, but should be back on-line shortly. I've been having more problems with my hosting company (no surprises there) and so I'm in the process of switching hosts. The good news is that most of the bugs in the redesigned version of the site have been ironed out, so I'm relaunching with the new version. Cue the rolling back of the swimming pool on my sercret island hideaway and commence the launch sequence...

But first we have to wait for the DNS to sort themselves out. Ah well.

Posted by chris at 10:52 AM | Permalink

Permalinks now working

It's been a productive, if dull, day. I finished exporting the remainder of the 755 level 2 kanji (don't ask), built my first php page, and got the archives working properly. The permalinks should all be working if (and I realise it's a big if) you find yourself wanting to link to any of the dross contained withinhereinforthwithbelow. I can't be bothered to change the template yet - click on the timestamp at the end of each post, or right-click it and select "Copy Shortcut". Mac users can work it out for themselves, I'm sure.

Posted by chris at 07:09 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE relaunch

It looks like I have quite a way to go before The Kanji SITE is ready for re-launch. (Demo pages here, here, here and here.) I just did a Dreamweaver "check links site-wide" on the development version of the site:

Files: 4320 Total, 2328 HTML, 1507 Orphaned
Links: 49008 Total, 48689 OK, 88 Broken, 231 External
Shit. I suppose 88 broken links out of 49,000 (0.18%) ain't bad, but still... thassalotta orphaned files. I think 1001 of them are just backup copies of the right-hand pages... have to investigate further.

I'm just stepping back inside; I may be some time...

Posted by chris at 10:55 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE nearing relaunch

Finally The Kanji SITE is rolling towards re-launch again. I'd been putting off diving into its Heath Robinson-esque frame structure and crocodile-wrestling it to fit the new design and architecture of the site as a whole - and actually it turned out to be easier than exepcted. Hurrah.

A word or two in defence of frames: They are terrible. They confuse search engines, result in confusing navigation and ugly scrolling and make it impossible to bookmark anything other than the top frameset. Oh, hang on, defence... sorry, yes. They are definitely crap but, I think, excusable if you have a site which needs to be able to display any one of 120-odd left-hand pages in combination with any one of 1000 right-hand pages. So that's the only reason I use the bastards; 120,000 pages for the price of 1,121. As soon as I learn how to program ASP, however, they die.

Posted by chris at 10:31 PM | Permalink

Okay... I've rebuilt the Kanji

Okay... I've rebuilt the Kanji SITE mailing list into something approaching its former self. I'm going to have to make the first thing that goes out on it a grovelly apology (maybe a gravelly apology would be more entertaining... but my voice probably isn't deep enough) to anyone who removed themselves from the list only to find themselves re-established.

I'm going to upset some people, but I doubt asking any aggrieved unsubscribers to flame my hosting company would do much good in the long run. Fingers crossed the list doesn't get munched again.

Posted by chris at 08:36 PM | Permalink

It's been, shall we say,

It's been, shall we say, something of a slow content day. Not much is happening. Still no Nic Cage advert, but I'm coping.

And then, bang, out of the blue, from the Swerdotron, comes this. You will need Flash 5, and you will not regret the wait.

In other news, such as it is, then the Kanji SITE redesign is almost finished. I've been neglecting my Japanese studies and haven't posted any new kanji for over a month, which kind of makes a mockery of having the damn thing in the first place, but it's been in a good cause. Kanjisite 2.0 is on the way, oh yes. Less blurry images, a better colour scheme, expanded content and re-vamped navigation. I'm looking forward to the relaunch - aiming to get it done by the end of the month, though that may yet prove to be optimistic.

Plus I also have to get my mailing list back... grrrr.... it's a long story, and I won't inflict it upon you.

Twenty more minutes of Nic Cage-searching-surfing, and I'm going to bed.

Posted by chris at 01:35 AM | Permalink

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