Pete Crowther

Rookie - 0 Points (Hull, East Yorkshire, England)

A Japanese-English Phrasebook - Poem by Pete Crowther

from a news item reporting an assault on a Japanese tourist
who had unwittingly insulted a person by using a phrasebook
deliberately mistranslated by an ex-employee of the Japanese Tourist
Board bearing a grudge against his former employers

The Japanese are said to be
Of all the nations in the world
The most polite and courteous
So it was strange to hear one say
“Excuse me please, you b-r, you
Can kiss my a-e, thank you, good day! ”
It was not what he meant to say,
He simply wished to ask the way
And was surprised when he was slapped
Across the face and chased half-way
Along the street to his hotel
Wherein he learnt that others too
Had found the natives just as wild
And prone to sudden violent rage.

Ishuro Nakamura, clerk
Translator to the Tourist Board
Was sacked. He bore a grudge and planned
Revenge, compiled a travellers’ guide
Containing mistranslations, thus
“What is the cost of X or Y? ”
Became in Nakamura’s book
A direct sexual invitation,
“How pleasant is this sunny weather! ”
In Japanese was rendered as
“I understand your mother is
A prostitute”, while “Kindly send
The chef my compliments” became
“This soup is vomit, take it back! ”

The repercussions were immense,
No less than fifteen Japanese
Were summonsed to appear in court
On charges that they had disturbed
The peace and three were up for GBH.
The phrasebook had to be withdrawn
Some fifty thousand copies trashed.
Returning tourists flying home,
Quite traumatized, upset and shocked
Were offered counselling paid for by
The Tourist Board. There was no sign
Of Nakamura, he had fled;
His phrasebook now immortalized
Is greatly prized by book collectors.

Comments about A Japanese-English Phrasebook by Pete Crowther

  • Liliana Negoi (4/7/2006 1:58:00 AM)

    :) It is strange how sometimes this happens to people speaking the same language... :) Nice written. (Report)Reply

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  • (6/10/2005 10:34:00 PM)

    not that I have any porblem with it, though :) hope that isn't misunderstood. (Report)Reply

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  • (6/10/2005 10:32:00 PM)

    I must admit that Japanese people ARE the most annoyingly polite folk.I have a friend who listens so courteously to everything I say that i wish he'd tell me to shut up and go away instead.
    another friend of mine is in the process of learning kanjis-they have 8000 characters.what a crazy language.

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  • (6/10/2005 11:21:00 AM)

    Very funny...and very well written. I'm assuming that it is true.


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  • (5/5/2005 11:34:00 AM)

    Well in two months, japanese people could ask me about translations (i'm learning the language which isn't as tough as you may think) ... I may give them some bad translations, but at least they'd be better than Nakumawa (ot whatever his name is) .
    Nice poem (y) Made me laugh a bit.

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  • (3/26/2005 1:04:00 AM)

    I really enjoyed this too. Is it a true story? 10 (Report)Reply

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  • (3/18/2005 12:36:00 PM)

    Hilarious! You are a born poet...I cannot believe you have been writing poetry for only two years. Wow! (Report)Reply

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Read poems about / on: weather, kiss, peace, mother, home, world, thanks

Poem Submitted: Monday, October 25, 2004

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