My work colleagues offered me a sweet potato omiyage, the almost obligatory gift from a trip they took to the Korean Sea. The wrapping was, of course, beautiful. But the English words were so over the top ridiculous that I wonder if it represents revenge by the translator against a hated boss. “Notono Satsumaimo, Sweet Potato Intact, Clib, and Moneyed, Cheap for Cash, Husbands Brainless.” The gift-bearers had no idea how funny the translation was.
Reading a 1960s literary book by last century’s most celebrated Japanese to English translator, I was struck by his use of charmingly out-dated English. Famous North American translator describes how famous Japanese Meiji writer turned his attention from geishas to “slatterns.” The setting was the start of the 20th century, and the fiction writer was making the impossible biological transition from young man to middle age.
The context made clear that the “slattern,” lacking the art of the geisha, was a barely obscured word for prostitute. What a now quaint word to denote lack of sophistication, slovenly hair and costume, and inadequate hygiene.
With this delicious new word in mind, what did I see in the JR Metro but white plastic heart-shaped high heels? Yes, the heel itself was in the shape of a valentine’s day heart with the point serving as the base of the heel. Below is the closest approximation I could find on Google images. And, trust me, somehow the white plastic was even more slattern-ish than the lucite model.
My only question is why, even in Tokyo on a hot evening, can men not signal slattern-iciousness the way ladies can and often do? Step it up, herbivores-ladies danshi-gyaruo-otomen!