Extra! Korea

July 16, 2010

Those inadvertently funny “English” slogans

Filed under: humor, languages — extrakorea @ 4:44 am

This is a bit of an old article, and I’m not sure if it’s been posted before by another blogger (I don’t think so), but it sure is worth the read, largely because of the interviews with two experts on Korea, Michael “Trod Underfoot by Samsung” Breen and Tom Coyner.

He [Breen] said the Dongjak district of Seoul tags itself “Lucky Dongjak,” but his first thought on reading that was, “Where’s the casino?”

“If Dongjak’s main industry were gambling, that would work well. But as it isn’t, I can’t quite see what it’s for,” Breen said. “Similarly, what can we make of Namwon, City of Love?”

He pointed out that the main mistake local governments make is to copy others. He said the effect of Dynamic Busan copied from Dynamic Korea and Yes Gumi copied from Yes Tokyo is to say, “We are not original.”

Coyner offers analysis.

Tom Coyner, president of Soft Landing Korea, said the strange use of English may possibly be due to it being categorized into three target consumption groups; domestic, international and foreign tourist.

“In the category of domestic consumption, the use and misuse of English is of little consideration to the local marketers who come up with these catch phrases.”

Coyner claimed the primary consideration in the category is how the English words resonate with the local population who may have a fundamental but inadequate grasp of the language, as seen from Super Pyeongtaek and Hi-Touch Gongju.

“There can be linguistic or pedagogic connections between certain English words and corresponding Korean words, cultural points, etc. that are totally lost on most native English speakers,” he noted.

Coyner said such examples are not only found in product advertising, building names, but also with local government promotions of towns and provinces.

He believes the most controversial of the three is for international consumption.

The management consultant said often prestigious and expensive international specialists are employed, but the specialists are overruled by the bureaucratic desire to “localize” the international expertise.

“This may be done out of a desire by local bureaucrats to privately boast that they came up with the final slogan,” he said.

Coyner claimed, if not out and out weird, the choice of English words associated with a place’s slogan often seem rather arbitrary, such as Colorful Daegu, Ulsan for You, Happy Suwon, and Nice Jecheon.

He said, sometimes, punctuation is hoped to make the difference ― particularly when employing an exclamation mark as in “New Start! Yesan.”

As for foreign tourist consumption, he said while these examples were attempts to be helpful, they were made without asking foreigners to review signage or even checking a dictionary before ordering the signs to be made.

And the coup de grace:

“When wrong, at best they can be humorous, and at worst, they may convey a sense that the country is made up of yokels.”

(emphasis mine)

Is anyone (in a position of influence) listening? Frankly, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The desire to brag to one’s friends in the same bureaucracy, “That’s my slogan!” probably outweighs any concern about making one’s country look like a bunch of yokels.

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2 Comments »

  1. Actually….

    http://rokdrop.com/2010/07/03/what-is-your-favorite-korean-english-slogan/

    Comment by holterbarbour — July 16, 2010 @ 5:58 am

    • I thought I had seen it before. I guessed the Marmot’s Hole or Monster Island, but didn’t find them there, so …

      Comment by extrakorea — July 16, 2010 @ 8:00 am


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