I'm holding out for Jonathan Franzen in Double Extra Large

"Shoes and Clothe" boutique, of Phnom Penh

Engrish is an endless source of amusement. For decades already we have found ourselves cackling at the excruciating, the misplaced, the misspelled, the off-center, or the just plain random words and letters that hapless Asians see fit to emblazon on their t-shirts. (Although to blame Engrish entirely on Asia may be unfair. Just today, while filming at Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, I spied a Russian gentleman wearing a burgundy t-shirt boldly emblazoned SOUTH DAKOTA IT'S ALL YOURS DANCE MASTER SCHELUDES.)

The origins of this sort of typographic festival seem to me to be rooted in the fast-fading allure of the great United States, beacon to would-be emigrants and aspirant entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe. In China, Vietnam or Russia, clothing with the English alphabet sprayed all over it denotes a certain hipness. No matter how random, the letters alone indicate worldliness, mobility. This is ironic in that the moneyed classes the world over tend to speak actual English--the Engrish shirt only works for those too low in status and education to comprehend the meaninglessness of the slogans they are sporting. Absurdity is just a click away; Google translate makes it so easy to be so very, very wrong.

The allure of the east and the rise of China as an economic power has somewhat turned the tables, with more and more attention being paid to the parallel phenomenon of Chingrish, including an excellent blog that chronicles the tattoo catastrophes of hipster Westerners.

I can't recognize Chingrish when I see it, but I'm always on the lookout for spectacular examples of Engrish, so my eye was drawn by this window display on the streets of Phnom Penh:

Rising up the NYT bestseller list, it's Erheyi Sniamla

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just spied one of these drying on a laundry rack across the courtyard here in Paris -- Excellent post!