Psychoanalysis of public English messages

Scott Gardner


(On a woman’s t-shirt at a gym)

What should we do if the world ends tomorrow?

Analysis: This is a silent plea for help from a weak person caught up in a world of futile repetition. It might be interpreted like this: The world may end tomorrow; why the hell am I running in place on this stupid treadmill?

(On a sport utility vehicle)

Hi-lux: No other cars suit me

Analysis:This demonstrates a case of Aggressive Passing Personality Disorder. As defined by the APA (Annoyed Pedestrians Association), people with this disorder will use large automobiles and combative driving tactics to project an image of physical, intellectual, and social superiority to others. The bitter inner truth (often hidden by smoked windows) is that such drivers weigh in the area of 200kg and are literally unable to fit behind the wheel of standard-sized automobiles. Thus no other cars suit them.

(On a banner outside a retail store)

Last Price Bargain

Analysis:This slip capitalizes on the limited katakana pronunciation of English vowels by some Japanese speakers. It is actually meant to say Lust Price Bargain, and it is addressed to those elements of society who get sexual gratification from saving money while shopping. These “red tag fetishists” are well documented in a section of Freud’s famous essay, “Remnant Bins and the Unconscious.”

(On a bath towel)

Heart of Japan: Search for Breakthrough Point

Analysis:Heart of Japan: Search for Cute, Irrelevant English Catchphrase

(In a public restroom)

Sink for Domestic Wastewater

Analysis:This is a xenophobic holdover from the days when foreign wastewater was thought to be less appealing to the public than native Japanese wastewater. It fails to take into account how much global realities have changed. In fact, in order to promote diversity most accredited universities around the country require as much as 5% of its wastewater to be of foreign origin.

(On a notebook)

The benefit of this notebook is up to the sense that comes from your passion

Analysis:A common psychological difficulty among young people is confusing logical thinking (their “sense”) with emotional thinking (their “passion”). Unfortunately the seemingly innocuous message on this notebook encourages them to continue muddling up these conflicting ways of thinking. It would make more sense psychologically to instead push consumers to buy two notebooks, one for “sense” and one for “passion”. It might also boost notebook sales.

(On a designer jacket)

Incredible fashion

Original Clothing

A war may break out at any moment

Analysis: In a modern text-heavy world we may have grown dependent on simple, clear-cut methods of interpreting the myriad stimuli that surround us. For example, when confronted with a person’s fashion statement that we are simply incapable of responding to on our own, it is a relief to see that in many cases the proper responses are actually written for us on the fashion items themselves. Therefore, we need not worry about whether our associate’s shiny gold bomber jacket is worth mentioning as a smart fashion choice or not, since the words “incredible fashion” appear right there in bold lettering on the back of the jacket.

       The “war” reference is more difficult to analyze, however. It may have meant that the jacket was bulletproof, but unfortunately I had no opportunity to feel the material myself. The guy wearing it might have punched me in the nose if I tried.