Misuse and Abuse of Language

Even as a native speaker, I recognize what a messed-up langauge English is.  Because of that, I have a lot of sympathy for non-native speakers.  When I really need a laugh, I’ll stop by Engrish.com to see some of the ways in which the English language has suffered at the hands of non-native speakers, particularly in Japan and China.  One lesson I draw from all this, though, is that one shouldn’t use a language if you don’t really know what you’re doing.

This gets me to wondering about people who cross the line from innocent mistakes – of course a non-native might easily write “corn poops” instead of “corn pops” on a breakfast cereal sign – to intentionally disregarding a language, using it more for decorative purposes rather than for communicating.  I’ve written before about the dangers of getting a tattoo in a language you don’t understand.  What about those who choose to use language for interior design but obviously don’t understand it?


Case in point, the “pan Asian” restaurant RockSugar at the Century City mall in Los Angeles.  Owned by the Cheesecake Factory chain, the entry to the restaurant is decked out with Buddha statues (which, if you really want to get to the heart of the matter, are objects of veneration, not decorative items to place by the front door) and “exotic” looking Thai script.  The Thai phrases appear in odd places, vertically along some of the outside walls (note that Thai isn’t written vertically), in random phrases on their website, and in the entry vestibule, pictured below.


Wow, looks exotic, huh?  Boy, I bet I’m about to get some authentic Oriental food here… maybe I can get a slice of green tea cheesecake afterwards.

Rock Sugar Translation

Putting aside the fact that these are nonsense phrases, much like some of the entries at Engrish.com, they are also written in some absurd out-of-order combination of font sizes that makes it harder to follow in Thai than it is in the English translation, above.

I understand the fascination with other cultures and who wouldn’t want to open a restaurant featuring a mish-mash of Asian cuisines?  But perhaps in doing so we could use a little bit of cultural awareness and sensitivity in the process of designing the interior of the restaurant?  Is that too much to ask?


Before and After Pintxo

With twelve hours to spend in Los Angeles between flights, tapas at Bar Pintxo wasn’t the only way I spent my time.  As I mentioned, Gary was kind enough to shuttle me around the west side of the city, checking a few items off the to-do list and engaging in a wild goose chase to buy a DVD for a friend in Singapore, only to discover after stopping at a few different stores that the DVD hasn’t been released yet.  Yea for iPhones…


Funniest airplane-related site: a Southwest Airlines gate that is right next to a public area between terminals 1 and 2 at LAX.  It looks like the wingtip almost hangs over the wall.  One wonders what happens if he pulls into that gate just a wee bit fast.


Gary’s magnetic personality attracts the reflection of palm trees at the Westside Pavilion.


We also stopped at the Century City shopping center, where I had my first chance to see the new AMC Theatres.  Back in the mid 1990s I actually managed the old AMC Century 14 that used to be at the front part of the mall.  Even then, plans were afoot to build a new mega-cinema but I had not been back in the five years of so since the new cinema opened.  This cinema (or, at least, the old one but I think it still holds true for the new one) is where many of the who’s-who of Hollywood, especially the power brokers, come to see their films.  On any given weekend evening there would be a full log at the Guest Services counter of passes that had been approved by AMC’s film department for studio heads, movie stars, directors, etc. 

There was also no shortage of people who were not on the list who would try to pull the “do you know who I am?” routine to try and score free tickets or, worse, free tickets and seats specially reserved for them.  Pathetic, when you think of how much money these people have.

One person who was always a charmer, though, was Faye Dunaway.  Somehow she got hold of my name and then would call and ask for me.  She never asked for free tickets and I don’t recall her asking to reserve a seat for her.  She just wanted to make sure we would save a ticket so she could get into her movie, and most of the time it was for a matinee performance when there was plenty of room anyhow.

“Hi, Chris?  It’s Faye,” she would say as if we were the best of friends.  “Look, I’m circling around downstairs looking for a parking space and I’m worried there won’t be any tickets left when I finally get upstairs.  Of course I’ll pay for it, but can you set a ticket aside for me?”

“Sure, Ms. Dunaway, it would be my pleasure.”


After dinner we strolled the few short blocks from the restaurant to the Santa Monica Pier, which was quite crowded despite it being an overcast and chilly evening.  I asked if anyone wanted to ride the roller coaster which, I might add, is only a kiddie coaster.  Nobody was brave enough!