‘Engrish’ T-Shirts are Hirarious

Okay, warning: I’m about to make fun of Japanese fashion for a second. But I’m sorry, it’s just too funny not to.

T-shirts with English phrases printed on them are really popular here. Unfortunately for these t-shirts (and the people who where them), somewhere in the manufacturing process, spell check and a translation check were overlooked. Thus, people are left wearing shirts with sentences that make little sense and are not much more than a random jumble of words.

Like this t-shirt, for example. Maybe it’s a deeply meaningful haiku. Or maybe the manufacturer just thought those particular words looked beautiful strung together randomly like that. Who knows?

Tokyo Shirt

In other cases, the meaning can be understood, but there are typos and somewhere the message gets lost in translation slightly.

engrish shirt

Well, who doesn’t feel happiness when they eat a potato? I love potatoes! And I definitely want to buy this shirt.

engrish shirt potato

Then there are the shirts that may be grammatically correct, but are totally inappropriate. Last week, for example, I saw an elderly Japanese gentleman wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a plate of spaghetti across the front. Written in cursive above it was the caption:

“Straight? So is spaghetti until you heat it up.”

Now, was this man trying to make a bold statement about his sexuality or did he not understand what was written there and bought the t-shirt because he liked the cute spaghetti graphic?

Or, here’s another example. A little over a month ago I was exploring my neighborhood mall, when I saw a woman, (40-ish) pushing an infant in a baby stroller. The woman’s hot pink t-shirt read:

“Your lovers all wish they were sleeping with me.”

Someone, somewhere in a clothing manufacturing company is snidely chuckling to himself right now, I’m sure of it.

Is it really wrong that I laughed out loud when I saw this picture? Especially funny are the kids and teacher in the background…Seriously, no one realized what his shirt meant and sent him home to change?!

engrish shirt asia

To be fair, Westerners aren’t any better. How many people stupidly have bogus Chinese characters tattooed to themselves without bothering to verify the meanings first? And tattoos (unlike t-shirts), are permanent! America’s own Britney Spears apparently got a Chinese character she thought meant “mysterious” only to find out later it really meant “weird” (which is sort of fitting, don’t you think?) And my boss told me a story of his friend who cluelessly had the Japanese word for ‘kitchen’ tattooed to his arm…because he thought it looked nice.

Anyways, it all makes for interesting reading during my long and otherwise mundane commutes to work. I like to surreptitiously study the people wearing these ‘Engrish shirts’ and imagine to what extent they understand what’s written on them.

Got any fun examples to share?

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Comments ( 6 )

  1. Words Plus Paper

    What a funny post! I lived in Taiwan for several years and saw many tough, young men wearing shirts that said "sissy boy". I particularly loved the journals and had one that said "A man's best friend are his fingers". Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  2. Reannon

    Yeah, I think these 'Engrish shirts' are a big hit all over Asia. I saw them a lot in India and Nepal, as well. But I guess I'm just surprised they're so wide-spread in Japan. I'd have figured the distributors would have paid closer attention to what was written on them before selling them...

  3. Anonymous

    on the tokyo yamanote line this morning - old granny (in her 80's) tottered on and sat opposite me....wearing typical old lady attire plus shopping bag on wheels ....plus a hat with a kawaii cute kitten picture on the brim - AND ENGRISH WRITING ACROSS THE FRONT SAYING 'PLEASE LOVE MY PUSSY' IN BIG RED LETTERING - so wrong

  4. Reannon

    OMG that's too funny. I could totally picture that too. Nice description. I see funny Engrish shirts every other day and I so wish I had the courage to snap a photo with my cell phone...but I don't know how to do with out them noticing!

    At the beg of my lessons, I'll often take a few minutes to read aloud what everyone's shirts, bags, books say. The kids don't get it but I get a laugh.

    It seems like playboy bunny shirts are pretty in with my JH school students at the moment. Girls AND boys!

  5. Sarah

    Ohhh, ohh, I've got one! This girl, a teenager in a school uniform looking bored and totally nondescript on the subway, had a black bag with graphics of a city on it that read "Sex with a rabbit!" Yes. Hot.

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