Kanji quirk leads to some harsh language in reminder to pet owners.

Like a lot of people, since the start of the pandemic I’ve spent a lot more time going for walks around my neighborhood than I ever did before. When you’re feeling cooped up in the house but still trying to avoid crowds, Japan’s often congested trains and subways aren’t such an attractive transportation option.

On the bright side, my neighborhood in Yokohama is a pretty nice one, with a couple of tree-lined streets and multiple parks. They’re not anything fancy, but most have benches and shade, making them inviting spots to sit down and eat a takeout meal or sip a hot bottle of green tea.

But apparently they’ve been having a bit of a problem at the park in these photos. The nice, leafy street is also a popular place for local pet owners to take their dogs for walks, and some of them are stopping by the park when their dogs need to drop a deuce, then leaving the mess behind. Because of that, the park has put up a sign at the entrance politely asking owners to take care of their pooch’s poo.

Well, more accurately, the sign’s Japanese text asks relatively politely, saying “Inu no fun wa kanarazu omochikaeri kudasai!”, or “Please make absolutely sure to take your dog’s droppings home with you,” with fun being an inoffensive Japanese word similar to the English “droppings” or “feces.”

The sign’s English version of the message, though? Its vocabulary is a little more colorful.

“You have to bring back the dog’s shit,” the sign informs English readers. The harsher vocabulary is somewhat offset by the lack of the Japanese version’s exclamation point, though, but that almost makes the matter-of-fact dropping of the expletive even more startling.

So how’d the sign end up like this? Going back to the word used in Japanese, fun, on the sign it’s rendered as フン, in the phonetic script called katakana. That’s kind of unusual, since katakana is most commonly used for foreign loanwords, but it also sometimes gets used for Japanese words with kanji characters that aren’t commonly used (as with certain scientific or medical terms). But because Japanese has so many words that are pronounced the same way but have different meanings, if you plug the phonetic katakana フン into a translation program it won’t quite know what to do with it, and might try to force-fit it as a foreign word or name.

▼ Here’s Google translating フン as the Chinese surname Hung, for example.

Odds are whatever ward office employee was in charge of writing the sign ran into this roadblock trying to translate fun written as フン. However, fun does actually have a kanji, even if it’s not commonly used, so presumably that was the sign writer’s next choice to plug into the Japanese-to-English translation tool. Unfortunately, the kanji for fun is this…

…which is also the kanji for kuso, a harsher word that’s the Japanese language’s version of “shit,” and apparently “shit” is what the sign writer got back.

▼ Google’s translation result for 糞

Since fun and kuso technically mean the same thing, it’s not so shocking that they share a kanji. Their very different atmospheres, though, are a big part of the reason why they’re usually written phonetically, in either katakana or hiragana, since the kanji doesn’t give the writer the ability to differentiate between the politer “droppings” and harsher “shit.”

▼ Oh, and if you were curious about the steaming coil of poo’s line of dialogue, it’s saying “Please don’t leave me behind here!”

In defense of whoever wrote, literally, this shit, it’s not like my neighborhood has a huge ex-pat population, so really any sort of English signage is a thoughtful gesture by the local parks department. And honestly, seeing some startling vocabulary is still a lot better than stepping in a brown squishy surprise.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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