Monday, 28 June 2010

Power English


This current subway poster advertising Mount Takao – an attractive, popular mountain destination at the end of my subway line – shows a small point about how English language is used in Japanese design. The poster uses the word "power" for Mt. Takao's impact. Simple – yet slightly "odd" to a native speaker. Although slightly out of context. it quite obviously means "The Power of Mt. Takao" or "Mt. Takao's power". But literally, in English the slogan would mean "power up" or "charge" Mt Takao. It doesn't matter, we know what is meant, but it does call to mind the book I'm reading now – Globish – a somewhat-too-positive look at the spread of English worldwide, and how it changes and perhaps becomes more than one language as it goes global.

On the poster, there's one further design "oddity": the three font-uses – lowercase, condensed and uppercase. Possibly, an English-speaking Japanese friend says, the "Mt" is condensed to help it "disappear". Because "mount", or its abbreviation, is not an especially familiar word in Japanese while "power" and "Takao" are quickly read. The power of English.

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