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Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002
THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF
By JIM ADAM
JAPANESE MADE FUNNY: Gaijin Bloopers in Nihongo, by Tom Dillon, illustrated by Andy Boerger. The East Publications, 2001, 225 pp., 950 yen (paper)
Learning a foreign language isn't all hard work. There are also endless opportunities to make embarrassing gaffes. Like the time I ordered at a Mexican restaurant and nearly got slapped by the waitress. Oops! I should have asked for mame (beans), not mune (chest).
Funny enough on their own, when "nihongo" gaffes are retold by Tom Dillon, whose humor column "When East Marries West" graces the pages of this paper, the result can be hazardous to your health if, a) you think the Three Stooges are the world's greatest comedians, and b) you believe that people really can laugh themselves to death.
First providing definitions for the Japanese words that are about to be mutilated, Dillon delivers the blooper stories in a deadpan fashion, retelling in English the encounter exactly as it sounded to a Japanese ear. As the following encounters shows when the word for family, kazoku, is mixed with kaizoku, meaning pirate, the results are often hilarious:
"The beautician made small talk as she snipped the last touches into Kim's hairdo. 'What's something you miss about life back home?' she sought.
If this story left you hyperventilating between hoots, you'll want to read the whole book. But make sure you're not alone -- side-splitting humor can be harmful to your health.