Once upon a time I knew a lady who really liked that endlessly repeated on E4 TV show, Friends.
I have nothing at all against Friends (despite that episode where everybody from the UK is evil except for Richard Branson), you can’t deny that it is funny. However it is far from the best US sitcom available. That particular honour goes to Seinfeld.
I told her about Seinfeld and how it was so much more interesting than Friends and she seemed sceptical but willing to give it a try.
Seinfeld is almost unheard of in Japan but I knew I had seen a boxed set of DVDs somewhere on my travels to one of the various HMVs around the country. So we searched through various shops, turning Fujisawa upside down but no DVDs were found.
Fast forward to today and unfortunately we are no longer in contact but on a trip to BOOK OFF I finally found what I was looking for. It was a boxed set of the first couple of seasons of Seinfeld. The front had nothing out of the ordinary, just another picture of the usual four faces but on the back of the box there was a little slip cover. On it was the Japlish sentence, It’s 笑 time. From my extensive use of twitter I had already found out that 笑 or more precisely 笑う means ‘to laugh’. So I read out loud, “It’s laugh time”. The person I was with instantly corrected me. “No, it’s show time.”, she said.
I soon realised that on the back of that Seinfeld box was a pun and it was a multilingual one too, which makes it all the better. Lets not get technical but I may have mentioned before that kanji have multiple readings, the so called On reading and Kun reading. Due to the fact I have not yet studied 笑 and had only seen it in the wild, I only knew the Kun reading (warau). So this sighting, on a Seinfeld DVD box of all things, was the first time I witnessed the On reading (shyo).
So the words on the back of the box are a play on the English phrase “It’s show time”, but because 笑 is used it not only means it’s time to start the show but also that it is time to start laughing.
And because you are about to watch Seinfeld you will laugh.
It’s amazing how much Seinfeld has inadvertently taught me about Japanese culture. Now all I need to do is track down episodes of The Super Terrific Happy Hour and I will be an expert in all things Japanese.