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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

feel ars and pardon my spelling


Feel ars

One is used to seeing signs on Japanese streets exhorting you to watch out for pickpockets or peeping toms, or prohibiting you from smoking or jaywalking. This one however, spotted and sent by a acquaintance in Kobe, took me by surprise. 'Feel ars' ('and pardon my spelling...').

On further inquiry with the person who mailed it to me, I found out that this was the sign outside a hairdresser's. Well, you know what they say about hairdressers etc etc, but isn't this going a bit far?

Even ignoring the spelling mistake, it is, on the surface of it, an extraordinary thing for a sign on the street to promote. Although, on second thoughts, the spelling no doubt has everything to do with it.

Japanese has no 'er' sound and when words such as 'sir' and 'fur' are transliterated into Japanese they come out as 'sar' and 'far'. Furthermore, neither does Japanese contain the 'th' sound, meaning that 'think' and 'bath' come out as 'sink' and 'bass'. The touchy feeliness ostensibly advocated by the above sign is presumably more "new age" than "under age" in spirit: that is, my guess is that 'ars' is a blissfully ignorant transliteration of the word 'earth', thus 'feel earth' - one of the myriad attempts at half-cocked latter day hippidom that Japanese copywriting revels in.

Yet what that has to do with getting your hair cut is anyone's guess. True new agers eschew scissors, do they not? And, were the sign actually recommending what it (unstudiously) actually says, people into that sort of behavior aren't generally known for having good haircuts anyway.

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