Cheap Thrills and Space Robots

The local 99 cent store is a fine place to study the accelerated pace of globalization. Consider the following items for sale:

Mini Ballinc Set


That’s right, smart shoppers: a Mini Ballinc Set. Simulating the Ture Styles and Making Carefully! No, no, whatever you do, don’t translate carefully, because we aren’t done yet:

Truck Speed Car


Move over, monster trucks. The Chinese have arrived with their trackhoes built for speed! Built for…warring! Somewhere in the steppes of Inner Mongolia, there is a stadium filled with fans cheering on a race to the death between a bulldozer and an excavator. In a slow motion, tai-chi sort of way. I’m sure of it.

War Game Educate
But the Chinese know that Americans don’t fight battles with construction equipment. That’s why they offer us War Game Educate action figures. Teach ’em young.


Space Robot: All are fangle and in high quality. I had to check several dictionaries, urban an otherwise, on this one. Fangle is another word for gewgaw. Or, according to urbandictionary.com, fangle is short for “fake angle,” a picture that makes someone appear attractive, but in real life is ugly. What could it be? Either this space robot is hiding an unsightly beer gut under that high quality spacesuit, or the manufacturer is being a little too honest with the real role of this toy.

It only got stranger after a peek between the toy and the packaging, a place any seasoned Engrish hunter should always look:

NO DATA. Sorry, data costs extra. I mean, come on: what do you expect for $1.29?


Storm Wind top

LILTRA ROTATE SPEED STLADY TYPE. On the edge: Evolutionarg From of the Beygoma.


OK, LILTRA looks like another standard Engrish lookalike letter swap: a U turned into LI. But who is this mysterious STLADY? Maybe we should ask the “Evolutionarg From of the Beygoma.”

When I was in Guangzhou eight years ago, a fascinating glut of Engrish extended far past menus, infecting park signs and billboards (my favorite featuring a Caucasian in a chef hat advertising the “Mankattan” bakery company). But you don’t have to go to China – or even an Asian grocery store in the States – to find Engrish. Not anymore. Just like rats hitchhiking on ships that blew in on tradewinds, Engrish has arrived in the latest shipments of toys for American girls and boys.

The overall trend is nothing new, however. Some plastic toys have been manufactured overseas for decades; when I was growing up in the 70s, I remember reading MADE IN HONG KONG on the bottom of plastic army men and matchbox cars. But in Hong Kong, the command of English seems to be a bit stronger than in mainland China. I never remember having to ask my parents what “Ture Styles” were. In any case, I would have been too young to appreciate Engrish back then.

The above toys are cheaper than toys were 30 years ago in the States. Amazing. Each is cheaper than a cup of coffee, but they don’t seem to be worth the damage to our economy. But while they are here, I might as well enjoy the Engrish, one of globalization’s more curious side effects.

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About OmnivorousTraveler

Darrin DuFord is a travel writer, mapgazer, and jungle rodent connoisseur. His writing has won numerous awards and has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, BBC Travel, Gastronomica, Roads & Kingdoms, Narratively, and Perceptive Travel, among other publications. He is the author of Breakfast for Alligators: Quests, Showdowns and Revelations in the Americas (released in July 2016) and Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car, silver medalist in the 2007 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards.
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