Bum, Gob and Tea
Just what have the Japanese done to the Engrish Ranguage?
Or... the Japanese brochure-writing industry makes more frontal attacks on our cherished language. Tony Bacon investigates...
Before we go any further, it ought to be made very clear that our Japanese is absolutely appalling. Well, to be perfectly honest — and this magazine prides itself on its honesty — our Japanese is non-existent. Totally non-existent. So how do we have the nerve to take the piss out of the doubtless well-meaning Japanese brochure writers who show little or no understanding of our own dear tongue? Easy. Just watch this.
A mound of brochures, manuals and assorted Eastern musical literature sits in the cool One Two archive department, guarded by a brace of burly security personnel. In the midst of the mound lurks a hack, giggling occasionally, and now and then scribbling things down, like:
You will find the superiority on the maple-mahogany laminated body which is sophisticatedly solidified by our exclusive machinery.
"Do we learn anything from all this?" the hack asks aloud, staring at the various piles he's sorted out. "Is there anything about the Japanese mind that emerges?" he wonders metaphorically, if indeed metaphorical wondering is at all possible. "Yeah, I reckon," comes the expected reply from the more alert of gathered security persons. "They always get the early stages of copying wrong. But you wait..."
The obsessed hack, however, largely ignores this illuminating and perceptive comment, and begins to consider more closely the evidence assembled before him in the assorted piles.
There are the straight misprints. Anyone can do this. But the Japanese do have a certain flair. Take the Casio PT50 manual, for example. Opened at section 7, we get:
P Buttom. Press it with a pointed object (such as a pencil) after changing batteries...
Casios do make some odd noises these days, but we still haven't quite got over their almost perfect reproduction of a human shriek of pain that accompanies battery changing on the PT50. An altogether similar area is covered in TC Electronics' earthy declaration:
Quality electronics encased in rugged die-cast box with non-skid rubber on bottom.
And quite what ancient bassist Jack Bruce was on about to Aria in a fascinating Far East fanzine called the Gakki Shoho Review is way beyond us.
Jack Bruce chooses and uses Aria Pro II: "It's a bloody good axs".
Perhaps he'd lost his gold American Express card. Some people seem to make much of our Japanese cousins' confusion between the letters "l" and "r". We would not stoop so low, nor be as blatantly racist. Although we would just mention — briefly, in passing — the use of the words Enverope Generator on Roland's PG200 Programmer or, deep in a Boss brochure, this sentence:
The famous CE1 chorus ensemble (featured later in this catarog).
Or even Aria's Elekord promo stuff:
These guitars feature the revolutionaly New sound system that assures the powerful sound reproduction without the feed-back or touch-noise caused by players.
But enough of mere misprints. Much more fun in many ways is when our famous brochure people try to get their heads round A Concept. You know: they try to sell their wares by relating them to the everyday experiences of ordinary musicians.
This, apparently, is what good salespersonship is all about — talking the same language as the customer. Jargon and all that. Get them on your side and you're virtually home and dry.
Just occasionally, of course, this line of reasoning comes unstuck. Like when Amdek try to describe the uses (note that word for use later) you might find for their Distortion Kit:
With a tone control for free expressions, from the heavy metal sounds to the chord performance with soft distortion.
Ah yes, that makes it much clearer. And the Aria CSB basses should find plenty of players when you consider that its
Favourable total length fits for beginners or ladies.
Even as you read this, the queue of beginners or ladies is stretching far into the distance. Actually, Aria feature rather heavily in this particular pile — it must be something to do with the air around the factory at Nagoya.
The Aria Dual Stage Super Effects brochure, as a further example, puts stage effects units into a new league. Remember this next time you daintily wade into the boxes and pedals arrayed at your feet:
When Dual Stage Switch is "on", after your first step for Stage-One Stage-Two more effective sound is obtained by keeping on stepping strongly.
Meanwhile, Toyo-Gakki Co Ltd, makers of the Ult-Sound electronic drums as used at one time by Yukihiro Takahashi, asks the following probing question, with a lightning reply tacked on for good measure:
Why, traditional drummer don't stick to our Ult-Sound? This is the new drum part, setting most of the world drummers to follow tomorrow.
Quite so. But it takes our old mates at Aria to come to terms with the way that true musicians think and work and have their being. You've heard of good rhythm sections? And you know what an inside job is? But together? No problem.
What is most important for a bass player is to grab the imagination of a number and carry out intelligent insidework with drums.
And it's similarly reassuring, if not comforting, when Roland in their "Echo Machines" brochure tell us that with the 501 Chorus Echo's
great S/N ratio and special noise reduction circuits, sounds always sound like they should.
Thank goodness for technology, eh? In fact when it comes to stating the obvious, Roland seem to have something approaching a monopoly. Their "Dynamic Microphones" brochure has this fascinating insight into the world of acoustics: Sound quality is "rich" and rich... capable of high fidelity reproduction. Can be used for a variety of uses.
I told you that word 'use" would come in useful.
And so to the last of our fast-fading hack's merry piles: the one labelled "Miscellaneous". A cop-out, did you say? Well have a heart. What possible category would this come into?
A soldering iron, Philips screwdrivers (large and small), a minus screwdriver, radio pliers, and a nipper are all you need.
Category? Musicians' off-spring? Natural birth in the repair shop? You're right for once — none of these. Try this, then:
Heel-less cutaway: contoured as a heel-less on the back of the transmit neck of the SB Series.
Means nothing to you? Have you no imagination? OK then, in that case you'll like:
Quality sound and unqualified versatility for studio and stage.
A subtle one that. So now take:
Fundamental technique in electric guitar making can be found in the technique of making acoustic guitars.
We have always prepared in stock a tremendous quantity of body and neck materials such as maple, ash, alder, mahogany, and spruce in the log.
Severely selected flame-grain ash.
And while you're at it, Take Time By Forelock as Kyowa International so thoughtfully suggest. Take them, now you come to mention it, as far away as is humanly possible.
Because our hack is having difficulty focusing. His imagination is a stagnant pool of porridge, and his notebook a mess of meaningless doodles. And you expect a conclusion from him? A neat way of ending the page?
No chance — reading through all these brochures must be like unanaesthetised lobotomy. Or as Roland put it in "Guitar Synthesiser Vol 1":
Driving the synthesizer is tike playing the guitar.