futurezone finally wraps up the “all your base are belong to us”
fad, a combination of typically geekish computer-kids’ humour with the Japanese use of English as a decorative element one of these phenomena that amuses at first glance, though second thought, if expended, leaves one in doubt.
The inadequate dubbing of a computer game on the part of someone who obviously lacks language competence is nothing more than the verbal equivalent of the old slip on banana peel or the perhaps even older pie-joke. (Were there pies before there were bananas?) The crudeness of verbal pie-jokes is somewhat hidden by the sophistication of their medium, as language is generally held to range several steps up the civilizational ladder from banana peels or pies. Stupidity and dumbness having climbed fast up the very same ladder over the past years of cultural production, it may well be that it is no longer necessary to laugh about others’ verbal clumsiness to emphasize one’s own superiority, but simply out of a shared celebration of incompetence. Be that as it may, “all your base are belong to us” has quickly become connected to Japlish, a lingo hard to define precisely because two things, interrelated, but still different, are mixed up here: On the one hand, there is linguistic incompetence of the “all your base are belong to us”-type, where communicative goals are simply not fulfilled out of sheer inadequacy in expression. On the other hand, there is the visual use of English throughout Japan, predominantly for the sake of marketing and branding, as illustrated in dozens of examples on engrish. Interestingly
enough, Engrish begins its description of these examples by describing them as MASQUERADING for English. But do they?