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August 03, 2009

Scrambled English And Eats, Shites and Leaves

One of the most endearing, though sometimes shocking experiences an ESL teacher is likely to find in a distant country is...

...the attempt of advertisers and business people to use the English language. This attempt might be successful - or not. And it might be something entirely unrelated to the original intent.

But it is not just learners of English who mangle the English language. Consider the book Eats, Shites and Leaves. Yes, it is a clear parody of the recent best selling book Eats, Shoots and Leaves but it covers slightly different linguistic territory and shows some chilling - and hilarious - examples of native speakers as they trash and make a mess of their own language.

"Dog for sale - eats anything and likes children" is only one example of the unintentional signs you will see in this book.

You will also meet cliches, maxims, abbreviations, political gaffes, spoonerisms and truly frightening examples of nearly incoherent English and grammar,

To see some examples of actual real-world packages or signs in scrambled English, take a look at -

To buy an assortment of shirts, mugs and posters, check out their store at - http://store.engrish.com/.

I have to admit that one part of me actually loves this earnest yet bungled attempt to use my language. As an English teacher, I almost hate to say this in public, but I will be sorry to see English sanitized and accurate around the world.

One of my parting words as I was leaving China was "Two cheers for Chinglish!". It takes a native speaker to understand the nuances of that simple statement. And to me, that is the beauty and strength of the English language - perhaps ambiguity is deeply embedded in the English language so we will always have Engrish, Chinglish, Spanglish and an ever growing landscape of slang.

t is good to remember that we are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at August 3, 2009 12:09 PM

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