The world in a grain of sand

Saw Aeon's new subway advertising today. KATOU Ai looking cheerful alongside these words:

(fuwafuwa no seetaa mo
kirakira no akusesarii mo hoshii kedo,
ichiban hoshii no wa,
pikapika no eigoryoku dattari suru
I want a soft, fluffy sweater.
I want shiny, glittering jewelry.
But what I really want is sparkling English skills.

There's a lot you can say about that.

First, the content. The first poster in this series was SAKAGUCHI Kenji, and he was saying "Does getting lifelong English skills this year seem like wishful thinking? Think again. It's possible. It's absolutely possible." I will leave the difference between these sentiments and the female version's materialist rhapsody as an exercise for the gender studies student.

Second, the Japanese version. Notice that there are three gitaigo, mimetic words, in there: fuwafuwa ("soft, fluffy"), kirakira ("shiny, glittering") and pikapika ("sparkling"). Also notice that only fuwafuwa is written in hiragana. Do I think that this is because it describes something big and snuggly-wuggly rather than something tiny and piercing? Yes, I do!

Third, the English version. Do you agree that it is rather awkward? I do not think it was wise to advertise an English school using a bilingual text the original of which is about 25% mimesis. I also note that dattari suru, a sort of playful copula acknowledging the unusual nature of the sentence's assertion, has been entirely lost in translation. (It has become "is", basically, which is exactly what da, the regular copula, would have become.)

You can watch the (only barely related) campaign commercials at Aeon's site, too. If nothing else it's the first commercial for an English conversation school I can recall seeing in which a woman uses English to rebuff someone's advances.

Popularity factor: 9


I always thought きらきら meant shiny or sparkly. Sadly I was mistaken. Leave it to the Japanese language to have two similar words for almost identical meaning. Ugh.

ぴかぴか it is.


What's with the dattari suru?


What's with the dattari suru?

It's bint-ben. The use of suru struck me, since I've usually heard it with an elongated shite.

"I'd really like sparkly English skills...but what chance have I got when I can't even speak my native language properly? Eehee!"


Perhaps the "female" ads are really aimed at males. The message with the Katou Ai ads is if you want to meet peanut-brained bimbos, take an English class at Aeon.


Mark: that is a good point, actually. Could well be that this ad is aimed at men.

Justin: I think kirakira can mean sparkly in some contexts... for something like jewelry I'd think kirakira was more natural than pikapika (but I do not have Native Intuition)

Amida and IDR: well, I wouldn't go so far as to call it bint-ben, but I do hear it more often in female speech... it's just the -tari suru pattern applied to the copula. hon wo yomu: I read books. hon wo yondari suru: I read, like, books and stuff. ~ desu: it is ~. ~ dattari suru: it's, like, ~ and stuff. Basically a hedging technique. (Which I think explains the -te as well... it lets the sentence trail off, incomplete and sketchy, rather than standing alone as a firm, decisive, non-hedged statement.)


Would I be too ironic (and off-topic) if I felt that we are often failed to improve our English skills precisely because we try to achieve sparkling ones? As for the "... dattari suru", it would put it "..., to be honest". -- HJ


No, HJ, I entirely agree. Sparkling skills in any language come from mastering the plain old nuts and bolts so that you can respond quickly and intelligibly. Phrases like "thanks, but no thanks" are fun, but don't really contribute to sparklingness IMHO...

Thanks for the dattari suru correction!


きらきら is used for something that gives off light on its own, like a star, or something that reflects light.ぴかぴか describes something that reflects a lot of light as a result of being polished.So, IMO, 「ピカピカの英語力」would translate literally into "polished English skills." Unfortunately, polish requires elbow grease---a point that this advertisement glosses over completely.

I like both interpretations put forward here for dattari suru, but being a Japanese chick myself, would probably opt to translate it as "it could be."


Thanks, Verite! The pikapika thing was a head-slapper for me.

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