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No matter where you are these days, it seems that holiday advertising has become increasingly in-your-face: flashing lights, signs that shout at you, and of course Christmas carols played at the highest possible volume starting sometime around Halloween. Leave it to a department store in Japan (where else?) to take it to the next level.

Two readers of the Japanese Subculture blog were strolling around Shinsaibashi, Osaka, when they came upon a store having a New Year’s sale that featured deals so huge that apparently the only way the store could properly advertise them was to festoon their signs with one of comedian George Carlin’s seven dirty English words. As Japanese Subculture’s Jake Adelstein so eloquently put it, this was “no ordinary sale- it’s an effin sale!”

Zarina Yamaguchi, who sent the picture in, explained her reaction:

“I didn’t know how to react but what caught me by surprise was that none of the people around me seem to understand the profanity. My friend Sarah and I, both of mixed Japanese descent, both bilingual in Japanese and English, were struck with the comical twist. Pretty sure I would have never seen this elsewhere, I had to snap a shot.”

Of course, the blogosphere is very glad that she did! But why use the f-word to advertise a sale in the first place? For the answer, we go to the Super Happy Awesome blog, which reports that the signs were actually a pun. The sale, you see, was for special New Year’s grab bags called Fukubukuro. What we don’t know is whether or not the marketer responsible for the signs was aware of how singularly offensive some English speakers consider the “F-word.” Perhaps they thought the clever, multi-lingual pun was only mildly off-colour? That seems quite possible given the non-reaction Zarina noted in the local populace. Either way, it definitely speaks to the importance of getting help from a skilled translator when you’re advertising in another language!