Some t-shirts I've seen lately

18 Oct 2006

These were all spotted on t-shirts on the streets of Shanghai:

– Labial
– Herpes Club
– Naturally Two-Two
– Tomorrow is Peace. Tomorrow is Yesterday.

I have no explanation for the first two, although to be fair, “labial” is a legitimate linguistics term, and “herpes clubs” actually do exist (although I can’t imagine there being t-shirts for it). The second one is obviously a knock-off of the Taiwanese clothing company “Naturally JOJO.” The last one is confusing because there are no grammar or spelling mistakes, and it almost makes me want to believe that something clever is going on, but in the end it really just doesn’t make any sense at all.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. First! Yay!! ^^
    Making no sense is making sense. Haha. 😛
    Next time take a picture of those T-shirts.

  2. Errr, awaiting moderation again? Well…get back my hurrah…@_@

  3. your post is generating plenty of Herpes treatment google ads 😉

  4. Darn. When I read “Naturally Two-two” my first thought was that it’s a reference to Jacob Two-two (you know, from the Mordecai Richler book.)

  5. Tomorrow is Peace. Tomorrow is Yesterday.

    Kind of like Peace Out. War In.

  6. I have some crazy T-shirts, here are what they say: “CONQUEROR” in big green letters, “The Life is a Packing Sadness/ Big White Box/ Very Tightly” (I think it’s a translation of a haiku), “SURVIVAL/ EXIST/ THE LIFEBLOOD/ OF NEWS LIES/ IN IT’S CREDIBILITY/ LIVE”, “Come on/ FANATIC/ FOR YOU!” on the sleeves of that same shirt, “Rumble/ Goodtime” and on the back, “EVERYTHING!”

    Once I saw a grubby homeless man on Fuzhou Rd wearing an Adelaide Rams jumper (sweater). The Adelaide Rams were a Rugby League team in Australia, who formed and disbanded after only one year, in the mid nineties. It was such a shock: the most obscure item of clothing in the world showing up outside my door.

  7. I love chinglish T-Shirts. One of my favorites was “Happy accident” (I brought that one home for my sister). My wife bought a cute little snowsuit for her niece that has pieces of some highly technical writing about some computer technology stuff on it. And then there are the ones that have just totally meaningless strings of random letters. I guess for many Chinese the latin alphabet serves a similar decorative purpose that Chinese characters serve in the west (looks pretty, what it means doesn’t really matter).

  8. Herpes club?!?! That’s awesome.

    That might beat out “BJ GIRL” on a 12-year-old’s t-shirt or “All Access” on another student’s sweatpants.

  9. I’m with Nik – there must be a “Chinglish Club” on flickr with all the odd sightings and t-shirts around China’s pirate market. They’re pirate whores.

  10. You can always ride around on the BJ bus. Beijing is in for a lot of jokes in 2008.

  11. “Slut” and “Bimbo” are also popular.

  12. Wilson, there are several engrish groups on Flickr. The engrish tag also has a lot of photos.

  13. It reminds me.once upon a time,i had a t-shirt with a beautiful rainbow,i remembered my first boy i loved.

  14. Fred Richardson Says: October 22, 2006 at 11:43 am

    I greatly enjoy looking for Chinglish printed on shirts. I never know whether it is bad English, or has been written that way for fun. Tianzhidao… On a bus, a girl who’s the conductor was wearing a nice blouse decorated with stylized printed US$50 bills and a lot of phrases in English. One read “The United Anerica of States is such a thing in the 2006 of then”. On the back of the shirt of a young guy working at a restaurant where I’d eaten dinner several times, “To inform is our duty. To know is your right.” On a sweatshirt: “PEPSI ME”. A pretty girl with “What’s Now” written across her breasts. None of this ‘what’s new?’ – Get with it in the present!

  15. I’ve seen “I’m a Bitch” worn by a mother walking her young daughter around. Also, here’s an article that just appeared in the LA Times:

    Drivers may get lost in translation

    By Mike Penner, Times Staff Writer
    October 22, 2006

    Hungry tourists in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics are advised to approach the following menu items with caution: “Corrugated iron beef,” “Chop the strange fish,” “Government abuse chicken.”

    Actually, these dishes are fine to eat. However, the Chinese-to-English translation of these culinary specialties has proven to be hazardous to the language.

    The BBC reports that Chinese Olympic officials have launched a campaign to clean up the goofy English now seen on menus, street signs, shopping malls and tourist attractions before the opening of the 2008 Games.

    One change that definitely needs to be made: No longer referring to Ethnic Minorities Park as “Racist Park.”

    And motorists driving in the rain will not be helped by road signs that read, “To Take Notice of Safe; The Slippery are Very Crafty.” “Slippery When Wet” will suffice.

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