Saturday, September 8, 2012

Engrish 101

When I first arrived in Korea, I went looking for a little notebook to use as a journal. In a scavenger hunt type storefront shop, I found a notebook hidden among various non-related things crammed in a shelf. 

I wasn't so surprised to see English on it. English words and phrases can often be found on signs and products. But this was an entire poem! 

I held it up and did my best to give it a heart-felt reading, right there in the store;

Dew of light

Throw light on a time  
(Do what now?)
Be on the rolls
(Be ON them? What?)
The lights rolls well  
(Lights...plural? I'm so confused.)

Come to light 
(Are you using your vampire voice?)

The light lifts its spire
The tide rolls lights smooth
(I don' what??)
Lift a passage from the light
(If I knew how, but what?)
Roll the light into a ball
(Roll. the light. Roll it into a...ball?)

Roll a ball along the light
(Now you're just talkin' crazy talk right there.)
Roll down
(That I can do. I think)
Roll out the red carpet
Roll on

A roll of light closed by
(This is trippy.)
Roll oneself
(Case in point.)
Lights are rolling in
(I'm still a little stuck on how light rolls, exactly.)
Roll up
(I'm rolling this notebook up and buying it, I am!)

I had never read anything so incredibly confusing and awesome in my entire life. I purchased the notebook, and proceeded to both read it to people and ask them to read it, so I could hear it again and again.

I knew then that I would make it my part-time job to look for and enjoy all things "Engrish"- a term used for the magical and beautiful things that can happen to the English language when used by our Asian friends. 

When I settled into my little town of Hadong, I zig-zagged my way through the crowded market streets, keeping an eye out for English print.

Highly disappointed and critical when I found words that were spelled correctly and phrases that made sense, I was reminded that I am here to help non-English speakers have better command of my native language. So, I should be happy to see it used correctly. But I'm not there yet.

You know where I am? I'm at picking up this purse on the left and saying out loud, "How do you today? I do. How do you? You do too?" And looking for someone to share my Engrish joy. If I'm alone, I just mutter a little, "That's excellent. Truly, truly fantastic" and keep on my way.

 Play up. It's all have. Enough said.

Multi Stoking your beautiful body.  
I had no idea Korea was this racy. 
These are stockings, by the way.

If it weren't for Engrish, then I would have never known that "strawberry is made from love." That strawberry heart is happy fresh 100%. It's my goal in life to be happy fresh 100%, so I found this to be a little inspiring. It's also nice to know there is one strawberry out there made from love. Wonder where it is.

A 2013 calendar. I mean, carendar. 
I'm not gonna lie. I have trouble spelling that word, too. 
The a's and e's throw me.

Okay. Let's you and me try to figure out these directions on the back of a cushion. 

"This product is manufactured with the body theory."
 I'd love to know what that is. Hope it doesn't have to do with multi-stoking your beautiful body.
"The appearance is waved with air inside."

"It is convenient and comfortable. It is the best product for tour and advisement."
 That's awesome. Because when I came into the store, I asked the clerk, "Hey, do you have something that's really good for tour and advisement?" And she led me right here.
"Cautions: squeeze the valve when you puff or discharge." 
 I think you really need to see a doctor if this is happening.
"Keep far from fire; avoid heavy load and pointed articles. A pair of holes on the wing can allow a cord to go through."

I should say so. Wait...what was that?

Here's my favorite so far, found in an E-Mart (like a Wal-Mart) in Jinju.


There's so much good going on right there, it's hard to know where to start. 

I'll leave you with this bit of information about vocabulary English, sent to me by my friend in a neighboring province. 

"A lot of things that you undergo tests
Only two made their way to fight that can get you.
Beat up! Beotieo up! NOT ONLY FOR ME
Punch force is created.
People will see me out a lot of important."

Exactly. That's it, exactly. 


  1. Now that you have adopted the adorable Korean Kitten twins, you must also have the E-mart t-shirt. Because you love your cat by holding......and feeting it's head. I think they are trying to say feeling or petting it's head. But feeting is indeed funnier. Maybe you can pet their little kitten heads with your feet.....

  2. I'm so glad you decided to teach Engrish in Korea.

    "You will laugh more"!

  3. Bridget: Your mother pointed me to your blog. I enjoy your writing and I admire your adventuresome kimchi plans. You can whip it.
    Harold Renshaw (friend of your parents)