Please everyone, take care not to make this mistake!

Q. What is the most dangerous mispronunciation you can make in Japanese?

answered by Russell Watson (knows Japanese)

Over thirty years ago, I was at an izakaya (Japanese style pub) with one of my students. She ordered some fried flat fish which we were eating. The tail was quite large. I wanted to ask “Can I eat the tail?”

“ Shippo o taberaremasu ka” is what I should have said

“ Chimpo o taberaremasu ka” is what I actually said.

Shippo means tail

Chimpo is a crude word for “penis

Everyone laughed a lot. My student pointed to each item and explained where I had gone wrong.

Oh dear….

Please everyone, take care not to make this mistake!

EDIT: I am pleasantly surprised how many people have upvoted this. Thank you.

EDIT # 2 This post now has 1000 upvotes! Thanks to everyone who was amused by this silly story!


Victor De GrandeI heard this story of an American working in Japan, who had a limited knowledge of the language. One night he went over to his boss’ house to drop off a work assignment, and the teenage daughter answered the door. Since “chichi” is the informal word that means Dad, he tried to make it more formal by asking “O chichi wa?”

He thought he was asking, “Where is your honorable father?”

However, “O-chichi” means breasts. This girl, like many Japanese, was thin and sleight of build, and so this guy had just asked his boss’ daughter, “Where are your breasts?”

Fortunately, she was highly amused and so was her father.

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