Technical Sauna at Buddy Hair

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Another intriguing sign from Nagoya, Japan sent in by Nathan Hopson:

Since this is all in English (except for the straightforward heading of the price list), there's no need to explain any translation gaffes.

I simply want to call attention to several unusual usages in the English:

1. Technical Sauna.  At first I thought that was the name of the shop. But Nathan explains:

Actually, it's "Buddy Hair." "Technical Sauna" is the name they've given to their services. As I've said before, this use of "English" (Engrish?) is really just a paradoxical use of rōmaji as symbolically cosmopolitan but in fact "Galapagos."

2. Then I thought that "Parm", which is obviously meant for "perm", might somehow have been influenced by "parmesan".  So I asked whether the first part of "parmesan cheese", like "perm", is also "パーマ (pāma)"?  Again, Nathan set me straight:

No, which is probably why this error persists. It's パルメザンチーズ ( parumezanchīzu).

As for "Digital Parm" and "Head spa", your guess is as good as mine.

Nathan's further suggestions, though, are worth considering:

This is from a salon that offers two kinds of "parm," one "Digital" and the other, presumably, analog. Several things warrant our attention. First, nearly all salons in Japan misspell perm as "parm," probably because the Japanese abbreviation is パーマ (pāma). No cheese reference intended, surely. So this is not original. I was more interested in the proposition that a perm could be digital. I have no idea what that means….

Now I really want to know what a digital perm is.

Ah, maybe they set it with the fingers instead of rods!


  1. Mary Kuhner said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 12:00 am

    I also thought that "digital" would mean "by hand"; I furthermore suspect that "head spa" is what in the US would be called a "facial." In fact Seattle has a line of shops which provide "facial spa."

  2. Laura Morland said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 12:09 am

    I found sites advertising "digital parm" in Thai and Japanese. The Thai one refers to wigs, but here's a Japanese site:





    Enjoy long time curl style easier!
    This is the digital perm that is said to be painful, but especially in our shop under treatment. Thoroughly has a commitment, it permed by eliminating the burden.

    The difference from a conventional perm is to soften from the interior of the hair to the surface, can firmly well have order to spread the power of heat throughout the curl.

    If when dry than wet state is out curls.
    Although a great burden on the hair for using heat, in Roman we minimize the pain to give a solid nutrition to hair prior to treatment.

    Shampoo Cut Treatment styling included.

  3. Rohan Fenwick said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 12:33 am

    In terms of "parm", absolutely, it's simply a phoneticised spelling for "perm". Because Japanese lacks the weird central vowel of English LEARN, in strong Japanese accents, the usual vowel that replaces it is /a/. For instance, I've worked closely with several native Japanese speakers whose usual pronunciation for the word "burned" would be well-transcribed in rōmaji as bāndu. (I work at the Turkish archaeological site of Kaman-Kalehöyük – it's run by the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology – so the phrase "burned layer" is one that crops up exceedingly often.)

  4. Matt said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 12:37 am

    Er, there's a Wikipedia article for "digital perm" – no need to get too hung up on the misspelling… It was invented by a Japanese company, and indeed the use of "digital" in the name is a bit wasei-eigoic or at least irrelevant-buzzwordy, since the nature of the display has nothing to do with the process itself.

    Mary: That is a good guess, but it turns out that in Japan a "head spa" usually refers to a sort of combination shampoo/rejuvenating treatment/head massage, strictly hairline and up.

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 7:14 am

    Perhaps pointing us towards the Folliculator, featured in recent panels of WooHoo!:


  6. richardelguru said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    I love the tooltip!
    reminded me of that old (old in internet years) poem:
    ! * ' ' #
    ^ " ` $ $ –
    ! * = @ $ _
    % * ~ # 4
    & [ ] . . /
    | { , , SYSTEM HALTED

  7. richardelguru said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 7:38 am

    Oh, it lost the wakas!!!
    I'll see if this works before giving up in shame:
    < > ! * ' ' #
    ^ " ` $ $ –
    ! * = @ $ _
    % * < > ~ # 4
    & [ ] . . /
    | { , , SYSTEM HALTED

  8. Frank Bennett said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 4:21 pm

    Digital perm is apparently pretty much just a permanent wave with hot curlers. It will stand up (so to speak) longer, but there is more damage to the hair. Presumably "digital" conveys a sense of more complete control over the shape imposed.

  9. Jim Breen said,

    November 17, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

    ヘッド・スパ (head spa) is a 和製英語 term that's been in good dictionaries for quite a few years. For example the 3rd edition of 大辞林 glosses it as "髪や頭皮をケアする施術を行う施設。洗髪によって皮脂を取り除いたり、マッサージによって血行を促したりする。" JMdict has: "(n) (1) treatment offered at beauty salons, etc. usually including hair care, scalp care and head massage (wasei: head spa); (2) salon offering hair care, scalp care, etc.
    In Japanese スパ (spa) has the meaning of "salon offering beauty treatments, weight reduction, relaxation, etc." as well as the usual hot spring sense.

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