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Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002


Book bites

Staff writer
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.
"Kim's immediate answer: 'Oh, pirates! I miss them so much!'
"The woman stopped in mid-snip. 'You have pirates in America?'
" 'Uh huh. Many, mostly in Texas, but some in Oklahoma, too.'
" 'And . . . you miss these people?'
" 'Oh, of course. They always throw such big welcomes. Hugs, kisses and huge meals. It's so nice to see them."
"The beautician studied the foreign face. Kim sat with her eyes closed.
" 'Pirates never let you down, you know. Other people might, but not pirates. They stay with you to the end.'
"Then she opened her eyes to find the beautician with her eyebrows barbed and an expression that begged a question.
" 'Don't you have any pirates near here?"
" 'No!' The woman shouted. 'None at all!'
" 'Gee, that's too bad. As for me, I put God first in life. But always next comes pirates.' "

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.

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