Engrish, Remixing English for the Sake of Design

What’s the opposite of Japanese or Chinese characters emblazoned on clothing in the western world?

English on eastern-sold clothing.

One of the things you’ll notice, walking around Taiwan, is the sheer number of clothing sellers. Clothing shops are especially prominent at night markets where they often bookmark the ends of these markets with loud pop and EDM music.

Step into any of these stores and you’ll often find something slightly off with the English on these shirts. You’ll find—Engrish.

Engrish is the misuse or alteration of English. It also goes by the names Chinglish (中式英語 / zhong shi ying yu) and Japanglish, depending on the originating country. Though not entirely for decorative purposes, the most prominent sources of Engrish I found were on shirts and decorations in shops.

Engrish isn’t a new phenomenon. Some evidence points back to the late 80’s when English was mentioned as being a decorative language in some, mostly Asian, countries. What is new here, is the remixing of modern motifs, fonts, and production with the broken, misspelled, and miss-structured English.

Here’s some examples of Engrish that I came across recently. Notice anything familiar about these designs?

In the same way that a native speaker of Mandarin might laugh at the misuse of Chinese characters for a tattoo, these designs can be amusing. At the heart of it though, Engrish goes to show that sometimes people choose to wear or experience things simply because they look cool.

At the end of the day, this is a sentiment that makes us all more similar than different.

What are your thoughts on Engrish and its usage on clothing?

Have you experienced this or want to experience this? Share your thoughts below!

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