Global Missiology English, Vol 1, No 16 (2018)

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Cross-Cultural Humor:

English Speakers Gaffes in Japanese

Compiled by J. Nelson Jennings

Published in Global Missiology, October 2018

From personal acquaintances and experience:

-          Ordering circumcision (katsurei) in a restaurant instead of the intended breaded deep-fried pork and egg on rice (katsudon).

-          Pregnant (ninshin) woman in hospital: Im a carrot (ninjin).

-          Next-door neighbor (in Nagoya) politely inquires, Is your wife at home (miemasu ka)?

Answer: Yes, she can see (miemasu kedo), but why do you ask?

-          Confusing chopsticks (hashi) and bridges (hashi).

-          Misunderstanding polite refusals (ii desu) as enthusiastic acceptances (ii desu).

From 50+ Funny and Embarrassing Japanese Language Mistakes:

-          Calling babies and children scary (kowai) instead of cute (kawaii).

-          Calling people carrots (ninjin) instead of human beings (ningen).

-          Preacher commends sexual (seiteki) experience, not spiritual (reiteki) experience.

-          Saying, My stomach is a watermelon (onaka suika) instead of Im hungry (onaka suita).

-          Actually discussing earthquakes (jishin) while assuming the topic was confidence (jishin).

-          When making a cold-call visit, misunderstanding Go home! (Kaere) as Come on in! (Haire).

-          Asking a woman to marry you (Oyome ni narimasu ka) while intending to ask her to read something (Oyomi ni narimasu ka).


Asking, How are the eggs? (Tamago-tachi wa dou desu ka) instead of the intended How are your grandchildren? (Omago-tachi wa dou desu ka).