Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dice-K Dictionary

My friend Mark of sent me an article titled "Dice-K Dictionary" in recent issue of The Phoenix, an alternative newspaper in Boston area.

The article pointed out due to the popularity of Japanese baseball player Daisuke Matsuzaka (松坂 大輔) joining Boston Red Sox, many signs with Japanese have been spawning up around Boston area.

The article's author, Mike Miliard, contacted Momo Shinzawa, a fine-art photographer from Tokyo to help translate some of these signs.

In one of their examples, (114KB pdf)

Shinzawa said:
“Oh, this is really good one! The first three letters says ‘Red Sox’ (literately means ‘Red color sox’) which is kind of okay, but everybody knows Red Sox as Red Sox. You know what I mean? We pronounce and used the name of the team just like Bostonian, so this is kind of funny. On top of it, I think they try to say “Red Sox Fans” but, the last two letters literately means ‘an army corps,’ not ‘fan.’ I can see this sign was made by someone who speak Chinese, maybe? Who can not write [Japanese characters] Hiragana and katakana. When we use foreign words, we use Katakana. So the word ‘Red Sox’ or ‘fan’ should be all Katakana, not in Chinese letters. So this is my suspicious. Yeah, it is kind of No, No to call Japanese ‘An Army corps of red color sox?!’ Since [the Japanese were] Americans enemies long time ago!? I found this sign kind of funny! If Japanese see it, they can understand what they are trying to say. It is almost there, but not right Japanese.”

Actually if the characters shown above are be read as Chinese, it would translate as "Army group under red/bare boots". could be translated as either "red" or "bare" depending on the context.

The correct Chinese translation for Boston Red Sox is 波士頓紅襪(隊).


  1. This is a funny sign, but it is intentionally funny. Whoever made the sign certainly had a sense of humor. I am sure I have seen 軍団 to refer to a club of rabid fans of whatever. Fans of the comic actor and director Beat Takeshi call themselves たけし軍団. This is like Arnie's Army to refer to fans of Arnold Palmer.

    In baseball in particular, military metaphors often pop up. For example, Tokyo Giants games are often referred to as 巨人戦, and I am pretty sure that people would understand 巨人軍団 to be a jocular reference to an informal Tokyo Giants fan club.

    So 赤靴下軍団 is just a mock-Chinese literal rendering of "Red Socks Army" which naturally refers to a Red Sox fan club.

    Sure, they could have written something like レッド・ソックス・ファン・クラブ, but that would be boring!


  2. I should point out that 靴下 in Japanese does mean 'socks,' so in this case, 赤靴下軍団 does serve at least as a 'poetic' (or maybe ironic) translation of 'Red Sox,' even if that's not what they'd called be called in normal Japanese.

  3. All hail the glorious army of the bare socks!

  4. I agree with Alan, its actually pretty good. A more correct way might have been レッドソックス軍団 but I like this.
    Trying to read Chinese as Japanese or vice verse is pointless.
    or Amusing
    手紙: Letter in Japanese, toilet paper in Chinese (or so I've been told)

  5. I agree with Alan, Rikoshi, and Id that this translation was done purposefully and well. 軍団 is commonly used in connection with baseball teams, and the 赤靴下 is an easily recognizable translation for a couple of English words that all Japanese are likely to know. I've seen this combination in use in Japan any number of times.

  6. I completely agree with Alan's assessment. Especially considering that 靴下 means "socks" in Japanese (as Rikoshi mentioned), but not in Chinese--I dare you to find a Chinese speaker with no Japanese knowledge who thinks 靴下 means anything other than "underneath [the] boot."

  7. When I first saw that, I read it as "Red Shoes Under the Army" (i.e., 靴 and 下 as separate words, and using Chinese word-order), so it sounded rather silly.

    But, yeah, when reading it correctly, that translation is actually pretty good. K

  8. If it's any help, both the Yankees and Red Sox are commonly referred to as ヤ軍 and レ軍 (respectively) for short in the media. I've never seen this abbreviation used for any other team in MLB, so I guess it's use has been reserved for the Yankees (being the MLB's most storied ballclub) and the Red Sox (the Yanks' biggest rivals).

  9. Speaking of bad Japanese, check out this tattoo

    It's supposed to be the name "Gary" in katakana, but the two lines representing long vowels have been placed the wrong way around, turning them into ones. Instead of reading "geerii" (why "ge" anyway? I would have chosen "gye" or "gya") it actually reads "ge ichi ri chi."