Archive for Language and advertising
Kendall Willets had long ago noticed that Korean honorifics show up disproportionately in commercial settings, but this article brought up something new. The -si- 시 infix is only supposed to apply to the verb if the subject has higher status, but in service settings it's expanding to everything, including coffee.
The big LOL sentence for me, was when the Coffee 알바 (short for 아르바이트, “Arbeit(work)” from the Japanese-German arubaito/baito which denotes part-time workers in Korea) in the video says,
그 사물 들에게 우리는 존경의 마음을 억누를 수 없습니다. 커피 나오셨습니다. 커피가 제 시급보다 더 비싸거든요.
roughly translated as:
“We cannot control the boundless respect we have for these things. “Here’s your coffee.” (this is the kind of sentence they are talking about, which to my ears, can only be translated into English as (with a little bit of exaggeration) “His Coffeeness has graced us with his presence.” Then she goes on to say “It’s because (a cup of) coffee is more expensive than my hourly wage.”
[VHM: sic (punctuation and all); emphasis in the original]
Over the last year or so I've received several letters from an admirable organization called the Trident Society with the words "Free Pre-Paid Cremation! DETAILS INSIDE," on the envelope. Ordinarily, I don't open advertising letters, but the third time I got one of these I couldn't resist the urge find out what the writer(s) could mean by these words, which appear to pose a double conundrum. (1) What could a pre-paid cremation contrast with? A post-paid cremation? How would that work? (2) Anyway, if it's free, how can it be paid, pre- or post-? You might want to stop reading for a second and try to guess what's going on.
I'm afraid the answer isn't all that satisfying. Inside there is a card on which the reader can express interest in learning about cremation services. The card also features the announcement: "WIN a pre-paid cremation. Return this completed card today …to be entered … " So I'm invited to participate in a lottery for which the prize is a cremation paid for before my death. I guess I would have been just as happy with a free cremation.
By now, you may be saying , "Oh c'mmon, you know perfectly well what they meant!" Yes, of course, but what I find puzzling about the whole thing is the question of the relative shares of linguistic ineptitude and huckstering flimflam that went into it.
What do the following phrases or sayings have in common?
- first-year experience
- fast-track MBA
- be the difference
- cure violence
- student life
- students with diabetes
- one course at a time
- touched by a nurse
- we're conquering cancer
- working toward a world without cancer
- imagination beyond measure
- tomorrow starts here
Well, it's not quite as complex as the mixture of languages and scripts that we addressed in "A trilingual, triscriptal ad in the Taipei subway", but the following group of four characters and four phonetic symbols on the container of a fish-based food flavoring (here's the company's web page for this project) raises plenty enough interesting issues to merit its own post.
The Super Bowl may have been a lackluster blowout this year, but the commercials provided an opportunity to inflame the passions of some viewers. Coca-Cola ran a commercial with a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful," with languages including English, Spanish, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, and Hebrew.
Mark Swofford took these photographs of an advertisement for a very well-known brand of instant noodles in the Taipei MRT (subway system). It makes use of three scripts (Chinese characters [including some rare, non-standard forms], bopomofo / zhùyīn fúhào 注音符號 [Mandarin "Phonetic Symbols" of the Republic of China, and Roman letters) and possibly as many languages (Taiwanese, Japanese, English) — with Mandarin apparently *not* being among them.
Jason Cox sent in the following ad for a Christmas-themed exhibition of papercutting artwork from Taiwan:
Together with his "greetings from small-town Japan", Chris Pickel sent in this photograph of a sign, which was put up in his neighborhood for the aki-matsuri 秋祭り ("autumn festival").
The whole world knows about Fukushima. Lest its reputation forever be associated with nuclear disaster, ending up as an East Asian Chernobyl, the city wishes to refurbish its image as a dynamic, forward-looking, productive place. To that end, the Fukushima Industries Corporation (a leading manufacturer of commercial freezer refrigerators and showcase freezers) has devised a new mascot:
Dachser Food Logistics is what it said on the side of a van that just went by the window of my hotel in Leipzig. Do you see why I raised an eyebrow?
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The following restaurant sign in Uyghur and Chinese was sent in by Fangyi Cheng:
Poster from the Singapore Crime Prevention Council:
Everybody has been puzzling over the language of the series of online ads for Windows 8 that it recently released in Asia.
- Seattle Times: "Those weird and wacky Windows 8 ads: What language are they in?"
- Forbes: "Microsoft's Asian Windows 8 Ads Are Relatively Insane"
- Mashable: "Windows 8 Releases Kooky Ads in Asia — But in What Language?"
Native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean declare that it is not any of those languages. The first time I listened to them, the ads sounded as though they contained elements of some Wu topolect, a bit like mangled Shanghainese, but I could also definitely hear bits of Mandarin, albeit with unusual tonal contours and slurring. What was most perplexing of all to me was that, although I was certain that the ads contained Chinese phrases and sentences, every Chinese person to whom I showed them emphatically maintained that they could not understand a single word! In contrast, several non-native speakers of Mandarin said they could pick out a word of Chinese here and there. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »