Come for the weather report and stock prices, stay for the top-of-the-line profanity.
With a morning circulation of almost three million, Japan’s Nikkei is the largest financial newspaper not only in the country, but in the world. It’s a classy publication, produced by classy people, and for generations the members of Japan’s business elite have been perusing the periodical while sipping their morning cup of coffee or green tea.
Because of that, we imagine a few English-savvy Nikkei readers spewed their beverages all over the paper when they opened up the January 27 edition and saw this:
Lordy Loo! Not sure who signs off on ads in newspapers but think using the F word in the Nikkei might be a first! https://t.co/fG1eCn7Hyr—
Melanie Brock (@melanie_brock) January 27, 2016
This wasn’t a precision strike, either, but a case of carpet F-bombing, with the expletive appearing twice at the bottom of the page.
However, the surprising vocabulary isn’t the handiwork of a disgruntled staff writer who decided to go out in a blaze of profane glory. It’s actually an ad, but nevertheless, this kind of coarse language isn’t generally what one would expect to see within the pages of The Nikki, regardless of who the words are coming from.
While the advertisement’s arguable inappropriateness flew under the radar of many monolingual Japanese readers, it quickly caught the eye of expats, including Peter Landers, the Tokyo bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.
Just curious ... did the top folks at Nikkei approve of having the f-word printed in big letters on page 3 (albeit in an ad)?—
Peter Landers (@LandersWSJ) January 26, 2016
The question is obviously meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but to answer it seriously, it’s doubtful that The Nikkei, which doesn’t usually attract much in the way of edgy advertising, ordinarily needs to spend much time checking for profanities in submitted ad copy, and when it does, it’s probably not a hands-on project for senior management. And while The Nikkei does have an English language sister publication, the The Nikkei Asian Review, the two papers have separate staffs and run different advertising.
With all the snickering from English-speakers the ad provoked, the ironic thing is that its choice of words is actually the work of Englishman John C. Parkin, author of the self-help book Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.
The book’s exact title is somewhat debatable, as online bookseller Amazon’s on-screen text clearly uses “Fuck,” while the English-language cover pulls two punches by rendering the word as “f**k.” The Japanese-language version, though, makes no bones about what it’s really trying to say.
▼ And all in caps, for good measure.
When you take into account that profanity itself is a nebulous concept in the Japanese language, it becomes a little easier to see how someone at The Nikkei could assume that a title chosen by a native English-speaker should be fit to print. Still, to prevent these kinds of embarrassments in the future, it might be a good idea to call down to one of the Nikkei Asian Review editors and have him double-check the next ad that comes in with such large English text in it.