Actual news item scooped by City Weekly last week: Two Japanese exchange students visiting Utah were accidentally placed with a polygamist family. The girls, unfamiliar with American culture, apparently did not notice anything unusual.
JAPANESE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Class, we are excited to welcome back to our midst Junko and Kiko, who have spent exciting month in Utah of America. Please regard as girls tell story of visit.
JUNKO: Thank you, honorable teacher. Kiko and I had much exciting time in Utah, living with most interesting family.
KIKO: America perception of Japanese is we are efficient, but Junko and I see Americans are more efficient. Family we stay with have three mothers!
JUNKO: Many babies. Many, many babies.
KIKO: Family is very nice. They are member of Reformed Church of the Mormons of the Latter-day of the Many Wives. We go to church with family on Sunday. Family take up whole row in church!
JUNKO: So many babies.
KIKO: Mother Number One, who we call Momma LaRue, is first mother of family. Other mothers are Momma NorDeen and Momma LeDawn. Momma LaRae is oldest; she is almost 20!
JUNKO: Momma LeDawn is younger than myself. She is like little sister to me, and I am honorable auntie to her six children.
KIKO: American household so confusing! Many children in American house all the time, because American family do not send children to school.
JUNKO: American mothers teach children at home because of bleed-heart liberal propaganda in public schools.
KIKO: That is what honorable father of family, Poppa Vern, tell us. He is nice man. He flirt with Junko!
JUNKO: He make me blush when he say I should be fourth momma! I tell him I shamefully cannot do such, for my name have only one capital letter.
KIKO: I tell her to spell name capital J-U-N capital K-O.
JUNKO: Always with joking, Kiko is!
KIKO: Poppa Vern let us help with family business. We call unknown persons on telephone and ask to buy magazines we selling. Some persons do not have manners and say words of filth and hang up telephone before Kiko and I finished talking.
JUNKO: But other persons say we speak best English they ever hear from telemarketer.
KIKO: We do not know what “telemarketer” is, but we glad to help Poppa Vern make money to feed enormous family.
JUNKO: So many babies….
KIKO: While we visit, exciting event happen with American Federal Bureau of Investigation. Many American men and women with guns kick down door and take Poppa Vern away from us.
JUNKO: He have many guns and items for war, which he say are necessary because we must take rights back from government.
KIKO: He say Charlton Heston is his president, and he hate evil man called Clin-tahn.
JUNKO: We hate Clin-tahn, too. Bad man take away Poppa Vern’s rights!
KIKO: Now Poppa Vern in unsanitary American jail. He angry to be taken away from his three mommas.
JUNKO: But he still make jokes. He tell me, “Kiko” — he always call me “Kiko” — “Kiko, call Godzilla and have him step on American prison to release me!”
KIKO: “Or call Japanese businessman father and tell him send one billion dollars, because Japanese have all money,” he say.
JUNKO: Poppa Vern always funny, even when American FBI dragging him from house while mommas sobbing.
KIKO: We are impressed with American life. Americans very resourceful, have many children, have many guns, have many children with guns.
JUNKO: Is no shame to lose Great War to America. America great!
This is not how the column appeared in the newspaper. It was feared that the broken English spoken by Junko and Kiko would be offensive to some readers, so to allay that fear, I was asked (well, forced) to rewrite the column, this time with the characters speaking perfect English:
JUNKO: Thank you, Ma'am. Kiko and I had a grand time in Utah, living with a most interesting family.
KIKO: The American perception of the Japanese is that we are efficient, but Junko and I believe it is the Americans who are the efficient ones. Why, the family we stayed with has three mothers!
And so on. Everyone agreed the watered-down version is about 10 percent as funny as the original version; not coincidentally, it is also 90 percent less likely to offend. Humor and offensiveness often go hand-in-hand.
The politically incorrect version seems pretty harmless to me, and comedy, as I've often said, is not pretty. Besides, I often make fun of the way Americans speak, too. But I guess I AM an American, so maybe that makes it OK. Except that if the girls had been Scottish, I could have written their dialogue to have a thick Scottish brogue and no one would have batted an eye. Strange what our society chooses to be offended by.
Rememberful readers may recall that Junko is the name of my fake dog, purchased at RC Willey. It is also, however, a common girl's name in Japan.