Monday, March 7, 2011

Ate & Ape

Negotiating the visual and textual landscape in Japan can be perplexing enough: not only are there the Chinese characters, or kanji, but there are two syllabaries — hiragana and katakana — the latter reserved mostly for loan words from whatever language; additionally there is a large smattering of words from English written in Roman characters, romaji, which are sometimes English and at other times English-ish. This last category often is the most perplexing.

Simple enough, right?

Not really, because it makes no sense in English. In Japanese, it is nicely ambiguous, since "a té" could mean an aim or an end (当て)or, with another character, (あ、手)it would read "Oh! a hand."

"Este" (エステ)is short for the French esthetique. In Japanese it means beauty salon or in some cases cosmetic surgery.

So there's some pretty hard mixing going on here.  

Same day, different location:
It's French, or a kind of French I guess, but for the English reader it's comedic because we immediately associate it with the animal who sadly has no opposable thumb with which to bake. The Japanese pronunciation, like in the first example, turns the e into a long a. A pays. (But don't pronounce the s. In French. And I'm sure I'm missing an accent mark somewhere.)

Ah, language. C'est comme manger un singe.


  1. Am I wrong? Apes (Hominoids) all have opposing thumbs (but no tail). Although, not all primates have that fancy appendage. This from a man with only nine and half fingers.

  2. You're right! I think I failed HS bio. I guess they can bake after all. (I thought you were Sentry?)

  3. I might have failed bio too. I changed my call sign to protect the innocent.