Transformer Trump

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From an anonymous colleague:

Mother Jones has an article by James West titled "I Can’t Stop Watching This Bizarre Donald Trump Ad:  Wow… what did I just watch?" that is about this strange video.

The video was published on June 15, just three days ago, and — as of this posting — already has 2,726,177 views on YouTube and more than 8 million views on Facebook, which makes it phenomenally viral.

The title of the video is "Japanese Donald Trump Commercialトランプ2016".  It was created by Mike Diva, who is a 28-year-old southern Californian and is described as "an American video director, special effects artist, musician and YouTube personality."

Now for a few linguistic notes.

Perhaps the most perplexing — and suggestive — of all the katakana words in the video is this one:

kanto カント  It can stand for "Kant", "cant", and perhaps (although I'm not a hundred percent certain about this) "cunt"; also, according to the online dictionary, the place names Kanth, Cant, Canth, Ceannt, and Kant.  Since this "kanto カント" occurs following pelvic gestures by the Donald and precisely at the moment when there is much heart symbolism, I'm inclined to believe that it does not mean "Kant" or "cant", much less any of the place names, but rather "cunt".

"President" is katakanaized as "purejidento プレジデント".

Twice we see this on the television screen:

Toranpu izu goddo トランプイズゴッド, which is the katakana transcription of "Trump is God".

Fangdan Li spotted the following in the banner at the bottom of the news presentation on the TV screen in the video:  Toranpu sekai no daitōryō ni senkyo トランプ世界の大統領に選挙.  She remarks:

[This] feels strange to me. I think what the sentence is trying to say is "Trump is selected as the World President", but the correct way to say it in Japanese should be "Toranpu wa sekai no daitōryō ni tōsen shita トランプは世界の大統領に当選した".

There is more about the wording in the video that Language Log readers may wish to point out, but I'm fascinated by how the female voice at the end reads "Trump" as "Toranpu トランプ" and 2016 as "twenty sixteen".

At the bottom of the last screen is "Toranpu banzai トランプ万歳", but she doesn't read that.  "Banzai!" was one of the few Japanese words I knew as a rural Ohio boy back in the 40s and 50s of last century.

A final note on transformers, namely, they have been around a long time.  My son was playing with them in the early 80s, if not before.


  1. Nicky said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 8:53 am

    >also, according to the online dictionary, the place names Kanth, Cant, Canth, Ceannt, and Kant.

    We have a town called Kant in Kyrgyzstan, between Bishkek and Tokmok. There are two stories about this town:

    1. Its name is pronounced exactly as an English offensive term, which was source of jokes, when we had both American airbase in Manas and Russian airbase in Kant.

    2. The town is named after sugar factory that was main business in the city – Kyrgyz word for sugar cubes is кант/kant or qant, which surprisingly has the same origin as English word "candy".

  2. Nathan Hopson said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 9:17 am

    I'm in basic agreement with what's been said so far.

    First, it's important to recall that while this was created by an American (Mike Diva), whose knowledge of Japanese seems incomplete, there is a Japanese translator listed in the credits. The division of labor (what she translated and what he created himself) is unclear, but I suspect that a good bit or all of the katakana is his. The other errors suggest something about the translator.

    The most obvious example of this is the katakana "misspelling" at 1:12, after the video has ended. Under "Watch More Vids" it says ウォッチ・マイ・レーティスト・ビドズ. The word for video is ビデオ, and Japanese doesn't pluralize, even in katakana — except in rare, highly self-consciously Anglicized instances, most of which are for humorous (or pedagogical) effect.

    The credits list:
    Japanese Translation: Mari Toyozumi
    Japanese Voiceover work: Cristina Coppinger

    According to her LinkedIn page and bio on IMDB, Coppinger is a "Freelance Artist, Actress and Model."
    Mari Toyozumi, on the other hand, is a bit harder to pin down, which is unfortunate, since she's the key here…

    With those caveats, and at the risk of retracing some of what's been noted above, two moments interested me:

    At 0:17~, the "NHK World" onscreen titles are noteworthy:

    Line 1: "Fire" ファイアー
    Line 2: "Trump is God" トランプ・イズ・ゴッド
    I don't know what the "Fire" is all about… (further circumstantial evidence that it's Diva doing the katakana)

    "Trump Elected World President" トランプ世界の大統領に選挙 (Toranpu sekai no daitōryō ni senkyō)
    The last word (senkyō) is wrong on two counts.
    First, senkyō = election, not elected, which would be 当選 (tōsen).
    Second, to save space, Japanese media would omit the verb and use a suggestive particle-final phrase. At this stage (having been elected), the particle preceding would be へ (e). If に (ni) were to be used, it would be for his inauguration. In a nutshell, the former suggests direction, the latter transformation. Perhaps the translator is not familiar with this convention, but that still doesn't explain the incorrect term for "elected."

    At 0:45, カント briefly appears on the screen. I assume the intent was not to equate Trump with Immanuel Kant, and "can't" doesn't make sense in context (nor do the toponyms suggested by others), so I can only guess that this was a misguided attempt to render "cunt" into katakana. It's misguided for several reasons; the takeaway is that terms for genitalia are not used as insults in Japanese.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

    Reminds me of Ozymandias.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 4:30 pm

    From onegoodmelon:

    That video was hilarious!

    It is heavily influenced by scenes from 1996 movie Escape From LA. Which featured cutting edge computer enhanced graphics of the day. The most advanced parts of the movie depicted dreamlike video communications from a scifi futuristic version of a Che Guvera looking South American revolutionary. He was covertly brainwashing the daughter of the President of the United States and succeeded in kidnapping her and had got as far as LA. (Which had become a dangerous post apocalyptic wasteland).

    Hence, the need to call Kurt Russell's character, Snake Plisken, to "Escape from LA."

    It was a very campy, off beat, fun movie. Not at all like the uber serious original 1970s Escape from New York.

  5. Nuno said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

    This is clearly inspired by vaporwave aesthetics.

  6. Victoria Muehleisen said,

    June 18, 2016 @ 9:49 pm

    As Nathan Hopson says above, "Japanese media would omit the verb and use a suggestive particle-final phrase."

    You can see just that at the end of this PR video actually made by the Tokyo city government to promote voting among young people. (The voting age has been recently lowered to 18).

    It ends with 東京都がTOHYOU都に (Tokyo-to ga tohyou-to ni, "Tokyo city (will become) voting city").

    Why is TOHYOU written in romaji letters made up of strange characters (the "T" seems to be a plane, a seagull, Tokyo Tower and some balloons)? Why is there a smiling Mount Fuji in the background? So much silliness to enjoy.

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