Cowardly, pidgin-speaking, fat pigs

Posted: March 21, 2010 in linguistics, politics
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Japan’s way of coping with history is not, and has never been the healthiest one. Just a couple of years ago, a bunch of MPs from the Liberal Democratic Party (<— in Japan, the LDP is *the* crazy right-wing party full of batshit, and also the most successful one) questioned the veracity of the Nanking massacre, while proposing charmingly that:

The group said the fact that the League of Nations in 1938 voted down a Chinese resolution condemning Japan, a resolution which claimed Japanese soldiers slaughtered 20,000 people in Nanjing, was one piece of evidence that no “massacre” took place. (source)

Truth: much like science, it seems indeed to be a popularity contest. NOT.

(Was the US inspired by that when they started voting on civil liberties? We will never know)


“We believe that by China removing them, we can push ahead with true Japan-China friendship for the 21st century.” (source)

Ouch. The LDP’s definition of “friendship” is very Gorean. Somehow. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be friends with them, really.

Anyway, all things considered, it should come as no surprise that the portrayal of Chinese people in the media tends from time to time to be not exactly positive, or, to put it bluntly dehumanizing. I’ll just focus on one thing – the language – because to write about everything (like the stereotype of fat Chinese mafioso-cum-businessman) would take too much time, and also most likely several hundred thousand words, and also because it’s the easiest for me, as a linguist.

Anyway, it seems that at least since the first Sino-Japanese war, Chinese people have been frequently portrayed in the popular media, such as manga, B-class novels, anime, etc as speaking a ridiculous pidgin. At first, it seems, Western people would also be portrayed as speaking a  simplified form of Japanese, but this very soon changed (well, mostly). The stereotyped “Chinese”-Japanese has two main characteristics:

1) The use of the plain form of the verb “aru” at the end of every sentence that is not interrogative (which is grammatically incorrect, and also, grammatically incorrect)

2) The use of the adjective “yoroshii/yoroshi” at the end of every interrogative sentence. It can be translated as “OK?” or “right?”, and also in absolutely incorrect.

Exhibit 1, Dr Suranpu v. 5 page 173 (first written in early eighties, meaning, this is relatively fresh):

(All pidgin-like grammatical forms are underlined)

(right to left)

1. Ko- konchiwa. Watachitachi-

(Hu-hullo. We… <— plus, all “chi” should be “shi”s)

2. Kondo hikkochite kita Tsun-ikke aru. Yoroshiku ne.

(Family Tsun, just moved be. Nice to meet you <— plus the “chi” in “hikkochite” should be “shi”)

3. Hikkoshi pan aru ne.

(Just-moved-bread be, right?)

A very very old, and also doubly racist (blackface, anyone?) example from a really terrible, and also really popular manga, Norakuro. According to my sources(1) the manga started innocuously enough, but soon progressed to more militaristic topics, with the main character, the dog called Norakuro, serving in the army in a “fierce dog brigade” (mouken-tai) and fighting with pigs, which are clearly meant to represent the Chinese.

The following page depicts Norakuro accidentally stumbling upon smugglers selling weapons to native pirates (who also speak a pidgin-like Japanese):

(right to left, top-down)

1. (Norakuro, the main character, speaks correct Japanese)

Hahaa, buki ya danyaku o dojin ni uru no dana. Furachi na yatsura da.

(Huuuh, they’re selling guns and ammo to the locals. Dirty scoundrels!)

2. Zenbu de nijuuman en da. (Together, 200 000 yen <— note how the white smugglers actually speak proper Japanese)

3. Takai aru. Makeru aru. (Expensive be. Lose be)

4. Makaran yo. (You won’t lose)

5. Teppou bakudan takusan aru na. (That’s a lot of bullets)

6. Shuuchou, katte kimashita ze. (We bought it <— to the chieftain, uses the title)

7. Kayakuko he shimatte oke. (Put in the powder magazine <— the chieftain and “locals” use normal language when talking to each other)

Below, the interactions of the pig army, disorganised and cowardly.

(right to left, top to bottom)

1. Moukengun ha tetsudoumou wo norikoete kita. Mou sugu koko he kuru aru zo. (The Fierce Dog Brigade took over the railway network. They here soon be.)

2. Yarareta. (We’re in trouble)

3. Yatsu bari se no takai no hatama ga yoku ataru aru yo. (It easy to shoot tall people like them be, though <— backhanded compliment = tall = a very good thing)

4. Nigehajimetara dare ga tomete mo dame aru yo. (If we start to escape someone might stop us, wrong be)

5. Moukengun ha tetudoumou wo norikoete kita kara- (Because the Fierce Dog Brigade took over the railway…)

6. Norikoete kuru tokoro [print too tiny to read] de utsu yoroshi. Naze nigeru ka. (Shoot them with [too hard to read] while they’re there, right? Why escape?)

7. Kono gunchi toraretara make aru zo. Modore. (If the capture this place, we lose be. Go back)

8. Utte mo makeru ni kimatteru. (Even if we shoot we’ll lose)

9. Sonna wakaranai taichou ha yattsukeru yoroshi. (We beat up a dumb captain like that, right?)

10. Kora taichou no iu koto kikan ka? (Haven’t heard what the captain said?)

11. Kono aida ni nigedase. (We’ll escape soon)

12. Mukou no gunchi ga anzen aru yo. (The land over there safe be)

Charming, really. And, for the coup de grace, the freshest example, from 2000. Axis Powers Hetalia is a mind-numbingly dumb, racist manga chock-full of racist/xenophobic stereotypes featuring a bunch of anthropomorphized countries, and, basically, while my sentiments towards it can succinctly summed up with a  BURN IT WITH FIRE, it also unsurprisingly contains the racist Chinese pidgin. Below, the interactions os Russia (the blond guy) and China (the not-blond guy), pidgin-like forms underlined:

Classy, really classy.

(Most of this material is from the Satoshi Kinsui’s book. The Hetalia strip was recovered online)

(1) Satoshi Kinsui, Baacharu nihongo. Yakuwarigo no nazo.

  1. Ausir says:

    But is it really any different than using “ze lengvidge” instead of German in American movies?

    • Yeah, I think it is. “Ze lengividge” is mostly English with German accent, maybe some German words. The “Chinese” pidgin, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Chinese, or mistakes that the Chinese people commonly make (at least, not nowadays). It sounds and looks completely out of context, and also, other foreigners aren’t treated like that (apart from African Americans, who are made to speak the Touhoku dialect, which is a different, racist story).

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