Japan's public television network, NHK, airs an English-teaching program Monday nights called "Eigo de Shaberanaito".
The name is a reasonably clever pun, because it sounds like both "eigo de shaberanai to" ("We must speak English)", and "eigo de shaberu naito" ("English-speaking night").
Last night's episode featured a rather unusual learning exercise: One of the guests, Japanese comedian Yoku Hata, wrote a song bashing George W. Bush, and the American host, Patrick Harlan, helped him translate it, rather freely, into English:
俺はジョージ･ブッシュThe last line, for some reason, leaves the word "giri" untranslated; it can mean "murder" or "beheading", but in this context it's more along the lines of "verbally attacking" or "mocking". I'd say the whole phrase means something like "It's time to quit riding your daddy's coattails."
I am George Bush
I got reelected, man!
I am a two-term President.
It's all thanks to the American people.
He says, you know?
But yo, man, it's really all thanks to your daddy!! Too bad!!
Daddy's coattails "giri"!
First off, these lyrics are nonsensical since Dubya, a two-term President, can hardly be said to be coasting by on the reputation of his father, who was booted out of office after four years. But they're also utterly banal. They lack any poetry, cleverness, rhyme, or meter, in Japanese or in English. And they sounded just as bad when Yoku sang them, tunelessly strumming his guitar, as they look in print.
But let's put factual accuracy and artistic merit to one side for the time being, and ask this question: Why did NHK think this was an interesting, helpful, or appropriate way of helping Japanese people learn English?
Well, the show typically features celebrities who speak, or need to speak, some English, and it seems Yoku is taking his Bush-bashing ditty to America. The following is my own translation of his chat with the show's hosts:
YOKU: I’m going to go to America and point out the flaws in their attitudes and culture.I hope he sticks to the blue states.
FEMALE HOST: Your vision is so dynamic!
MALE HOST: Will you be making fun of America?
FEMALE HOST: But that’s all right, isn’t it?
YOKU: Yeah, the whole world’s doing it these days.
MALE HOST: That sounds pretty strong.
YOKU: Well, my comedy is all about taking shots at the high and mighty.
PATRICK: That’s a really good choice. Attacking politicians and famous people is the American comedy style, so you should win the audience over right away.
When we Japan bloggers team up, we're a force to be reckoned with. A Guy in Pajamas points out in the comments that InakaYabanjin has a post about the same episode with some additional information.
For example, apparently Yoku's songs always follow the same tuneless pattern and always are about some famous person it's kind of his gimmick. And they always end in "giri", which in this usage refers to the slashing strike of a samurai sword. It's a catchphrase that fits Yoku's "guitar samurai" comic persona.
Most importantly, InakaYabanjin notes that it was Patrick, not Yoku, who actually came up with the idea for the anti-Bush song. Way to help boost America's image overseas, Pat.
InakaYabanjin now says Yoku apparently came up with the anti-Bush song on his own.