Xbox and Ass

5 01 2012

Living in Japan, it’s funny to see the cultural differences in naming conventions.  In America, Kentucky Fried Chicken is KFC, in Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken is Kentucky.  If you said, “lets go to KFC,” no one would know what you were talking about.

Out and about I see a lot of funny English (or engrish as the internet likes to call it) being used to sell products.  Here’s a strangle little oven I found at an electronics store:

This little oven cost $778, and you can't even fit a full sized frozen pizza inside.


As a native English speaker, the name would appear to be “Health Lo”, which would be an incredibly bad name for an oven.  But if you say the name in Japanese, you could interpret as being “Heal Slow” which is, again, God-awful.  In actuality the L after the S is actually an I, making the name “Healsio” which, in Japanese would be “Health!”  Still not a great name, but miles beyond “Heal Slow”.

When American companies release products in Japan, it’s not uncommon for them to get a name change.  It’s the same world over; companies usually have a team of people who are indigenous to the area that look the product over and decide the best way to name it and market it in that region.  Sometimes the name stays, Coke is Coke world over.  Sometimes the name changes; Burger King is Hungry Jack’s in Australia.

Australians love them some Hungry Jack's!


In Japan, two instances from two diametrically opposed companies really surprise me.  First up is Microsoft, the company people used to love to hate.  When they released the Xbox video game console in Japan, they kept the name Xbox.  That didn’t go over so well.  In America, “X” marks the spot.  When you have to fill in a box on a form, most people will put an “X”.  “X” is the unknown; it has an air of mystery.  The “X” in Xbox actually refers to Microsoft’s computer graphics platform named Direct X.  But in Japan, “X” is seen in a negative light.  People refer to it as batsu, meaning “wrong”. When you take a test in Japanese school, correct answers are marked with a check and missed answers are marked with an “X”.  Often time positive answers are jared with a circle, or maru in Japanese.  Not only was the Xbox pronounced with an “X”, it had a big “X” molded into the unit and a big “X” on the front of the packaging!  Almost immediately, gamers started referring to it as the Batsu-box.  Putting a big “X” on a product in Japan doesn’t attract consumers, it keeps them away.

That makes this product the "batsu-maru", which is really confusing.


The other company is Apple, which traditionally lies on the opposite end of the spectrum as Microsoft.  The recently released iPhone 4S has a wonderful little voice recognition program named Siri.  Siri sounds very futuristic to western ears.  But in Japan, Siri is pronounced “shi-ri” which is short for oshiri meaning posterior, or using a more direct translation, ass.  So a when a Japanese person asks their iPhone 4S personal assistant for directions, they’re literally saying “Ass, tell me how to get to the nearest Kentucky.”

Hey, Ass! Where's the nearest abortion clinic?


One would have thought that Apple would have done a little research in Japan before springing this one on the Land of the Rising Sun, but it really comes as no surprise.  The iPhone is designed with a western audience in mind.  Many standard conventions that come with Asian cell phones aren’t standard on an iPhone, such as one-seg mobile TV and a Passimo/ Suica swipe pay system.  And besides, Siri can’t understand foreign accents or languages anyway.  Still, after calling your phone an ass all day, I’d be surprised if it was still working for you after a week.



2 responses

5 01 2012
James Bacon

BWAHAHAHAHA! I love the Apple faux-pa! It’s hilarious!

7 01 2012

Just to be stated. Coke is not Coke world over. Here in Brasil it is Coca-Cola. 🙂

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