A Dying Breed: Funny English on Japanese Signs

I was at Yodobashi Camera in Osaka the other day, the largest camera store in this part of the country. It's something like six expansive floors, selling everything from obscure large-format camera accessories to luggage (but, alas, not the out-of-production AF-Nikkor 28mm f/1.4 I was looking for).

They're a national chain, and internationally minded: the “welcome to Yodobashi Camera” jingle that continually plays storewide cycles among a bunch of languages (at least Japanese, English, German, Chinese, and I think Portuguese. Maybe French too? I wasn't paying that much attention.)

So, with that in mind, I found the English in the lower-left of this sign to be funny:

Sign in a Japanese camera shop with funny English

They have a copy of this fairly large sign at each of the many cash registers around the store.

If you do read English and don't read Japanese, do you have any idea whatsoever what it's trying to say? Heck, I read Japanese (at least enough for this) and don't really understand what they're saying.

The red Japanese writing above the English says, in part, “please understand that the purchase with intent to resell is prohibited.” Okay, that's fine, and makes sense, although I certainly didn't get that from the English version below it.

The red Japanese text also notes that sales to those “in the business” (such as a camera-shop owner) are also prohibited. This seems sufficiently odd that I figured that I must be misunderstanding the Japanese (and again, the English version is of no help), but I checked with Fumie and indeed, that's what it says. She doesn't understand why, either.


The English did make slighlty more sense once I realized that “theresale” is supposed to be “the resale” rather than the “there sale” that I'd originally parsed it as. Still, it's funny. The whole bit about “impossible for other person to buy it” is not at all reflected in any of the Japanese on the sign.

In case you're curious, the other parts of the sign are not related to this. The text in the green box on the right says that the warranty proof card is included on their receipt. Above the credit-card logos it says “you can use these cards.” In the top yellow section, it's advertising the store's point card, where you basically get some percent of your purchase total as store credit for a future purchase. (Such point cards are common at consumer electronic places, and can sometimes represent a 20% discount. I still have over $100 in credit at a local place from when I bought my camera, and chip away at it from time to time when I need a printer cartridge or something.)

One comment so far...

About the “in the business”, one reason could be that competing shops could create a temporary monopoly on hot selling items by quietly buying out another shop’s stock then raising the price at their shop. So maybe they just wanted to emphasize that in addition to simple “reselling”.

By the way, it’s common for Japanese at my company to type emails in Japanese first then run them through online translators to English and send the result as-is. The result is perfect English–with the order of the words randomized.

— comment by Mark on June 8th, 2009 at 1:47am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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