“Pay Dictator Upgrade Dear Neighbour”There is a problem in advertising in Korea that needs to be addressed: It is trendy for big companies to use English slogans, but too many mistakes are being made.
For example, we have Baskin Robbins’ new slogan “Ice Cream & City.” It is grammatically incorrect. A foreigner would sense that immediately, but for the benefit of non-native-speaker readers, an explanation: “City”, as a count noun, needs an article. “Ice Cream & A City” would work, but does not make sense. “Ice Cream & The City” does make sense, but is an obvious rip-off of “Sex and the City” ― and probably was not chosen for that reason.
It is one thing to see incorrect English in Korea on a sign, or on a T-shirt, or even in a store name ― but in a national advertising slogan?
This latest blunder joins a list of other ill-considered ideas that includes KTF’s “Have a Good Time,” Pagoda’s former slogan “You Can Do,” and Samsung’s “Bravo Your Life.”
For the record: “Have a good time” can only be used when the speaker knows what the listener intends to do after the conversation. For example, yesterday, at a store, a helpful clerk thanked me for my purchase and told me to “Have a good time.” However, since he did not know what I planned to do after leaving the store, he should have used “Have a good day.” (Or “Have a good night,” as appropriate.) The slogan itself is not grammatically incorrect; however, Koreans, not knowing any better, are using the sentence incorrectly in conversation.
“You Can Do” was especially bothersome because it was the slogan of Korea’s biggest English language chain. How ironic! “Do” is a transitive verb and needs an object, so “You Can Do It” is correct.
“Bravo Your Life” comes from Korea’s biggest company. Ironically, Samsung has been spending millions of dollars in America to promote itself as a high-end brand, and then they turn around and mar their image by using a ridiculous English slogan in Korea. “Bravo” is not a verb. Might as well say “Money Your Life” or “Kimchi Your Life” or “Ah-ee-go Your Slogan.”
Don’t the advertisers check with native speakers before adopting these slogans? And if they do, are the native speakers overruled? By someone who doesn’t speak English fluently, but whose decision goes unquestioned in this Confucian society? Does that make sense? Does grammar matter?
I have heard the argument that this is “creative” English, that Koreans are more comfortable with these easy slogans, that I should not let it bother me, E - T - C (as a student might say). I don’t buy it. Reversing the roles, I would not presume to invent a slogan in Korean without checking it first with native Korean speakers, so why should it be any different in the present case?
Some suggestions: To Teachers: Introduce these slogans in your class and make a game of it: “Find the Grammar Mistakes in These English Slogans Used by Large Companies in a Country In Which Government and Business Leaders Can’t Stop Talking About Being an International Hub.”
To Korean companies: Spend just a few million won of your huge advertising budgets to hire me to vet your English slogans. I will be able to finish the job in less than a minute, you will have a slogan that will not disappoint foreigners, and we can all go to a room salon to celebrate the deal! While there, we can “bravo” some room salon girls and “Have a good time.”
While reading over what I have written so far, I saw a couple of commercials on TV. “Change the Life” was a new one for me, and I saw the old favorite, “Everyday New Face.” Is that a plastic surgery ad?
I just saw another ad. This one had “Everyday Fresh” as the tag line. It was for yogurt ― not feminine protection.
Finally, “North Korea Feeling Fresh,” “Kim Jong Il Excite,” and “Pay Dictator, Upgrade Dear Neighbor,” are possible new slogans for the Roh administration to consider if they would like to jump on the Bad English Bandwagon.
by Douglas Binns
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