English Quiz: “Stone Seals”

When you hear the words “stone seal,” what do you think of? 10 Japan Points to you if you know just from this picture what it’s talking about.

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Answer:

IMG_6553-2

Easy, right?

This is actually a set of Disney stickers I bought at Daiso. The “stone” (sutōn) part refers to the rhinestones that are part of the stickers, and “seal” (shīru) is Japanese for “sticker.” It’s an example of English “matching” the Japanese it was chosen to represent, but taking on a different meaning (more on Sophelia’s blog). This English is just the slightly mistranslated type, but there are plenty of crazier examples out there. I don’t remember questioning it that much, until I started watching Eat Your Kimchi’s critiques of the English used in K-pop music videos, and now here I am, still thinking about it.

I used to just think “Japan is cool, and the person who made the product thinks English is cool, so whatever,” and leave it at that; but now, Eat Your Kimchi has me wondering why it has to be in “English” at all. Is it that cool? Are the customers actually reading the English and making their decision to buy based on that? Is there actual market evidence that English on things, no matter what it says, is trendy and cool, and more people will buy something with English on it? I guess the sheer quantity of random English on everything would suggest that. However, when I mentioned to a Japanese friend once (whose English is really good) that I thought it was funny, she thought it was embarrassing to have weird English on everything. (Only “weird” from the perspective of a native speaker who wasn’t used to it yet, of course.)

I think most people just must not care, then; but when I seriously ask myself if I’d rather have all the English run through a spell-checker and fix all the errors, I have to conclude that I wouldn’t, because it’s really funny.

Imagine Dragons, “Amsterdam”

2 thoughts on “English Quiz: “Stone Seals”

  1. I’d never before wondered why there was English (for marketing purposes?) on so many products. The same was true 30years ago… maybe because people take English in school having English information on products is affirming of all the effort that went into those classes? Somehow saving face? Interesting.

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