An ad for a new product of a Hong Kong cake shop went viral for taking pseudo-Japanese to the extreme:
It is my custom in Language Log posts always to provide Romanized transcriptions of writing in hanzi / kanji / hanja, but in this instance I will forgo the Romanizations for the simple fact that, in many instances in this text, I wouldn't know whether to read a word in Chinese or Japanese. Even more troublesome, since this ad is from Hong Kong, I wouldn't know whether to read the Chinese characters (traditional 漢字 / simplified 汉字) as Cantonese hon3zi6 or Mandarin hànzì. Moreover, the text displays an odd mix of Japanese simplified forms of the characters and traditional Chinese forms. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think that the combination of traditional forms and simplified forms are as they would appear in Japanese writing.
It should be fairly easy for all readers of this post to spot the more than a dozen kana scattered throughout the ad. Whether for grammatical (mostly) or lexical (only a few cases) purposes, the kana are used more or less correctly as they would be in a Japanese text.
I hasten to point out that I have no difficulty whatsoever in reading every word of this ad, but that is probably because I know both languages moderately well. I must confess, however, that the mixing of Japanese and Chinese causes me to have the strange sensation of not feeling confident about how to pronounce each syllable. I wonder how Cantonese speakers, Mandarin speakers, and Japanese speakers, especially those who are monolingual, would read off the whole text of this ad.
The following remarks come from Mengnan Zhang, who IS bilingual in Mandarin and Japanese:
Words such as 為, 甜度，味道，微酸，甜味，每一口，留有，甜品，均屬, etc. are Chinese, which do not circulate in Japanese.
色沢、光沢、良い、極めて、香り、定番 are definitely Japanese.
3. Neither Japanese nor Chinese
赤苺 is not a word in Japanese, but it could be understood based on the two characters, which makes it more interesting. (Of course, 苺 is the kanji for strawberry, but the word usually appears as ichigo イチゴ or いちご).
4. Used both in Japanese and in Chinese
It's always hard to say whether certain words are Chinese or Japanese, since they are used in both languages (if we don't trace the origins of these words):
In addition, the grammar here is totally messed up. I am not sure how much of this advert a native Japanese speaker could understand. But as a native Chinese speaker with some knowledge in Japanese, I would see this advert as something built up mainly on a Chinese foundation with only the addition of several apparent particles such as と、な、の to make it look like Japanese.
A few closing remarks:
1. For a long note on words for "strawberry" in Sinitic languages, see this comment on Language Log. I seem to remember having a discussion of how to say "strawberry" in Taiwanese, but can't bring up a record of it now.
2. Yixue Yang observes that "Dung1hoi2 tong4 / Dōnghǎi táng 東海堂 ('Arome') is a Hong Kong brand, but it takes on a Japanese look. I tried their cakes. They're good, but also expensive. There seems to be a culinary hierarchy where Japanese food products are deemed to be among the high class, sitting luxuriously at the top."
4. The name of the bakery is interesting. When I do a web search for "arome", I find that it is used all over the world for restaurants, perfumeries, and so forth. I suppose that it comes from French arôme, where it means "aroma; flavoring"). In French it would be pronounced with two syllables, but in this Cantonese-Japanese-English version, I'd read it as having three syllables (as though it were a Japanese word). I have no idea how Hong Kongers, including the owners of the bakery, would pronounce "Arome".
5. In Japanese 東海堂 would be pronounced "Tōkai dō".
6. Pride of place on the packaging is given over to English.
7. For those who are curious about what the text is saying, it describes the world-renowned delicious sweetness and succulence of the Japanese strawberries on the cake, as well as their beauteous luster and wondrous flavor, and, yes, their delicate, subtle fragrance, and so on. I've moved some of the adjectives around a bit and left out a few superlatives here and there. Anyway, the wording is more than enough to make your mouth water and cause you to want to eat one of those Arome Bakery Ginza Style Strawberry Cakes right now.
[Thanks to Christopher Christophe]