The last time I went to Korea, I left with a business idea, for online English translation services. I’d have this website where Korean businesses could ask for English translation review. It would run the full gamut, from full service, where we’d work with companies to craft their English-language marketing campaigns, to “quick review” where people could just submit an English phrase, their email address (for a response) and pay $5 for someone to review it and make sure the spelling and grammar is correct before they plaster it on promotional materials, signs, or whatever.

The reason I got this idea, of course, is because the number of prominent, public English errors in Korea – stuff that any American child could catch – is appalling. Wouldn’t it be worth it to spend $5 just for a quick double-check that there aren’t any glaring errors before you plaster it on signs or (literally) carve it into granite? And I could review these like one a minute. I think it could get lucrative.

Like, my favorite Korean fried chicken chain (the #1 chain in Korea) is BBQ Chicken. You can see the English problems already. BBQ Chicken is not barbecued chicken. It’s fried chicken. BBQ stands for “Best of the Best Quality”, a fairly awkward English sentence. Their packaging is filled with similarly odd English. E.g. on their box:: “They returned for more when they found out the BBQ CHICKEN were actually good.”

This chain aspires to be an international brand. Could they have not used my English editing services? How much value would that have been to them? To have someone take them aside and say, “Hey, BBQ actually means something in English, something very different than what you’re doing. And the reason you’re using that acronym – the phrase behind it – isn’t even that compelling. You’re forcing an awkward phrase to confusion. How about just calling yourselves BQ Chicken? Or Best Fried Chicken? And as for the box, I think you want ‘was’ instead of ‘were’. But more importantly, the English suggests that people were expecting disgusting chicken and came back because they were pleasantly surprised that it was palatable. It’s not a good slogan. It’s equivalent to writing ‘BBQ Chicken – you’ll be surprised at how not crappy it tastes.’ Maybe a different English phrase is in order?”

I’d do all of BBQ Chicken’s stuff for free, then I’d promote myself as the website that fixed all of BBQ Chicken’s English. Then every Korean company would just automatically remember to double check their English with before publishing anything. I really think there’s potential there.

I get the same feeling when reading some of my kids’ books. I’m not saying that I am or could be a good book editor, just that I have some common sense, and some of these books could have used a common sense veto for the stuff they did.

For example, we have this one Sesame Street book about shapes, where Big Bird asks the reader to choose from various items on each page the one that matches both the shape he names and its description. For example, he asks, which object is a rectangle where you turn pages? That’s a book.

So for the triangle, the object he names is a triangle. As in the musical instrument. See, as the common sense children’t book editor, I would have nixed this. It’s a terrible idea. Because when you’re reading it to kids, it’s totally confusing. Another object on the page is also triangular (a boat sail). If the child picks it, you have to explain, yes, that’s a triangle, but no, it’s not a triangle. On the next page, Big Bird asks, “did you pick the triangle?” And again, if the child picked a triangle but not *the* triangle, you have to explain that. To a 1-year-old. Virtually impossible. It’s just a terrible idea that is literally interfering with Joshua’s learning. It infuriates me every time I read it, which is daily.

There are shockingly so many children’s books like that, that just lack some obvious common sense. Really really awful rhymes. Characters that exercise *after* getting ready for bed. Ambiguous text placement, like the opening credits for Ted Danson and Shelley Long on Cheers. The children’s book world needs a common sense editor. I’d do it if I had the time.

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