Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

English is not an easy language for Japanese people. But you'd think that Fuji TV, one of Japan's biggest television networks, would have a native English speaker check things. You'd think.

Recently, the network broadcasted its annual telethon 27 Hour TV. This is one of Fuji TV's most widely promoted specials. This year, it featured celebrities wearing t-shirts that read, "No Fun, No TV, Do Honky."

Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

[Photo: 500yen]

Oh boy.

Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

[Photo: tubusrerounin]

Yes, that's Shinya Arino from GameCenter CX.

People on Twitter watching the show, including Heroes actor Masi Oka, were quick to point out what "honky" meant in English and wondered if Fuji TV knew what the word meant.

Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

[Photo: Model Press]

So what's going on here? Why are they wearing shirts that say "honky"? The telethon is actually referring to the Japanese word "honki" (本気), which means "truth," "earnestness" or "seriousness." These telethons usually have celebrities participate in athletic events — hence, showing an earnest effort.

Yet Another Japan TV English Fail

[Photo: Shigure_scarlet]

The shirt probably should read something like, "No Fun, No TV, Be Serious."

But as Livedoor News points out, the word is usually written as "honki" in English, so changing the "i" to a "y" resulted in this unfortunate and embarrassing linguistic fail.

This certainly isn't the first in recent memory for Japanese TV.

Top photo: Model Press

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter@Brian_Ashcraft.


    do honky

      The day the Japanese (and others) stop making hilarious 'Engrish' phrases will be a sad day for us as a species. It's so endearing. Reminds me of the Korean brand of stationery 'Morning Glory' or "common slang for nocturnal penile tumescence".

        Oh wow... that's taking me back. Use to have heaps of Morning Glory stores all around Melbourne and to think. Not once did it pass through my mind to think of the name in that way. :O You sir... have destroyed my innocence.

    Given that most white people in the world wouldn't know this apparent slur, it no damn suprise that a Japanese tv studio would be unaware that a slightly differant romanisation of their name is the same spelling as some obscure apparent slur.

    Heck, the posting of this article on reddit was literaly the first time I heard of the existance of this word. If I had seen this without context, I would have been thinking something along the line of "goose noises"

      Set the Wayback machine for early 70's and England had a show called "love thy neighbor". About a racist white guy who has a black family move in next door. The white guy called the black one a " nig-nog" and in return was called a "honky".
      This may even have been the inspiration for the US version, starring Caroll O'connor as Archie Bunker.

    I had to Google what "honky" is.

      i always thought it was what black people called white people. kind of white version of the word 'nigger'.
      what conclusion did your findings bring you to?

        I learned this from my dad when I was but a tyke. Apparently he learned it when he was going to school in Fresno in the late 60s and when traveling in the US in the 70s. It isn't that offensive really. We called our herd of cats 'honkies'.

          i use the word honky or honkies with people im familiar with at work and groups of friends as a jestful but endearing term. people of the same age, not to managers.
          ive not been abused yet though or pulled up on the use of the word.

            It's just like I say 'nigga' to my Pakistani friend. It's not racist (I say it to all my friends) but it could be seen that way by outsiders. Reminds me of an episode of Silk (brilliant series)

          My wife is Chinese-Malaysian. She and her family refer to people from Hong Kong as "honkies", so it seems to have different meanings for different people.

    it's a racial slur for white people. very popular with black people in the US. it is perfectly acceptable for me to be called a cracker a** honky, but no one really knows what to call a black person, i mean a person of color, i mean an African American... um i give up. Seriously as a white male there is nothing i can say or do that some one won't perceive as racist. This isn't every where with every group, but it is true enough to be a sad example of the world we live in.

      Ask yourself this... Was the term Honky ever used in history as a derogatory bigoted expression in order to treat the race in question as a lesser.

        that is the general purpose of a racial slur

          He's obviously trying to tell you that, honky is a reaction to the derogatory bigoted expressions of white people which treated black people as lesser. Black people (I'm half black, not african american, but west indian) were treated like the lesser race, honky was just a reaction to that. Even today black racism against whites is just a reaction to white racism. Its too easy to act like "there's no reason" for it today, when you dont encounter any racism yourself, and you are a white male. Just think for a second about history, and put yourself in someone else's shoes, honky is till racist, but it was created by the group that WERE NOT in power, it gave them something to call their oppressors, it is just not the same as the n word.

            You have got to be actually believe Honky is ok but Nigger (which you call the N word) isn't? They are both unacceptable or they are both fine. You say consider the past well how about you consider the present. It is not acceptable deride and insult based on the color of people's skin. You do not use the word as an impassioned "F You" to your oppressors or slavers, you use it because you can get away with it. What a joke. I'm Australian for god's sake with a Swedish Mother and German father and I got called Honky and cracker while living in the US because of THE COLOR OF MY SKIN. Then I'd go home and jump over the back fence to hang out with my mate Montoya Jackson and watch MTV raps and jump back over and listen to Metallica. I'm glad he didn't think I was a Honky.

            Did you just justify black racism? Facist.

      pretty sure you nailed it the first time... black person usually go by "black"now I believe. Racism is more about intent in any case. If you are stereotyping or making fun of someone due to their race or perceived race then you are being racist.

      You are correct in that white people (you said male, but females too) may have a hard time classifying an individuals ethnicity. But as long as you are earnest in not knowing (ignorance) then you are not racist, you are trying to educate and culture yourself.

      I would not complain about being a white male in a public forum though. pretty sure white men have had it pretty good for a long time (and still very much so do). I would tag up Loius CK's bit on time travelling as a white man, but I'm too lazy to find it on youtube.

      To be completely honest I do find it funny when I see my white friends dance carefully around racial or cultural things they are not familiar with and I do love pretending to be offended just to mess with them. But that is one of the few perks of being in a minority in Australia =P

      As long as you're not being a dick I think you're in the clear. =)

      "Honky" is actually a term that was quite common when I was in High school (about 10-15 yrs ago) to refer to someone who was from Hong Kong...Lolz

        that may be, but it started well before 10-15 years ago.

        just to be perfectly clear I am in no way offended by this, and actually find it very funny. This deserves a good laugh, but there doesn't seem to be any intent to cause harm or insult any group.

        Last edited 28/07/15 12:52 am

        I came down here just to say that. (To me, its a derogatory term for someone from HK)

        Last edited 28/07/15 7:29 am

          Really? I always thought (and most of the people I know thought the same as well, ) that Honkie in relation to people from Hong Kong was a mere abbreviation because it took too long to say I'm from Hong Kong, and for most of the people in that period (late 90s) there's some sensitivity to just being called "Chinese"...

          where did the derogatory thing arise??

          That or we just decided to take ownership of the term I guess...

            Not sure the origins of the derogatory side. Different people use words differently though, im sure not every one uses/used it in a derogatory fashion.

        Yeh, Hong Kong peeps used this all the time. I myself used it back in the late 80's all through till now. lol.

      What are you even talking about? The comparable term to refer to a black person would be "nigger" or "coon" or some other racial slur. It's generally not considered acceptable in polite conversation to call people "cracker ass honky" either... I'm not sure what gave you the idea that it was.

      The equivalent to calling someone a black person would be calling a white person a white person. That's generally considered fine.

      Do you honestly have problems with people accusing you of racism frequently? If not, you might want to ask yourself why you're so sure people are thinking it. If so, you might want to ask yourself why people think that about you. I don't think anybody of any ethnicity has ever seriously believed I was a racist.

      From my experience nobody's going to be offended if you call somebody black. However, as for the problem of what exactly to call a black person, their name is usually a good start.

      Last edited 28/07/15 2:16 am

        I don't think anybody of any ethnicity has ever seriously believed I was a racist.
        Most people don't think they are racist :)

      Since when has been perfectly acceptable for you to be called a "cracker a** honky"?
      Whoever's been doing that to you, tell them to stop. It's not acceptable.

    Chill out you weird racist

    I have never heard of it before.
    Whether it's racist or not depends on the context. Here it's just nonsensically funny.

    Also: actually 'do honky' would be a verb

      Heheheh. If I were to read it I would assume it meant: if you are bored (no fun), and have no access to TV, go shag a white person... I wonder if I can get one of these shirts on ebay

    I think this conversation is in need of some reflection, courtesy of Albi, the racist dragon:

    As Macklemore would say, "Damn, that's a cold ass honky!"

    Young people... Honky was all over TV in the 80's in every second rate British comedy..

    Damn. I was kind of hoping the girl in the first picture was called Honky.

    As many have said, it's only going to offend a small number of people to whom the word actually means something offensive. It's like if we went to the US and said "I sure do love Coon", while referring to the cheese brand.

    I suspect there are mistakes that are made that are at least as bad going back the other way, particularly when kanji are used. I've seen a few howlers described. Of course, they're less common because while some Japanese words are used in English, they are usually used as loanwords which take on not-quite-identical meanings.

    (For example, if you call somebody "sensei" in English, they will usually be a martial arts instructor, whereas in Japanese the term is used for all teachers, professors, most doctors and so on. "Otaku" is usually used as a term of respect within a particular culture in the West, whereas in Japan it's pretty much always an insult.)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now