Antony Cummins

Antony Cummins

Slang merchant


Originally published on on September 2009

What’s with the clothes?
If I could have afforded it, I would have dressed as a massive panda with a banner! I’ve lived in Japan before, and I understand that if I stood here in clothes of a normal caliber, then I’d be ignored. At the moment, I’m all over the Yamanote line, and every single person reads the clothes. Those who read them twice get offered a leaflet.

What inspired you to write Igirisu Eigo no Akko Zogon Jiten (True English)?
I was a Nova teacher and I hated it! I hated working for them and I hated the system: they claimed to teach conversational English, but all they taught was polite English with some stereotypical slang. Many times, I went out with students and they asked me why, even though they’d been learning for 20 years, they couldn’t understand conversations. I told them the truth: in the West, we don’t talk in polite English—it’s regional and it’s base. Even the Queen would understand the words in my book, but she wouldn’t say them.

Do you think it’s risky to teach slang to Japanese learners of English? What kind of practical value does it have?
This is the biggest question that comes up. Even though it’s just a book, I think it’s the first step toward a more real understanding of the West. Japan is peaceful and quiet, but in England you can get your head kicked in for nothing—people insult you and life can be harsh. This book is a move away from the tea-and-scones idea that they all have here. All those Nova teachers had to grit their teeth and having to say, “Please may I have a scone” when what they really wanted to say is, “Give us a bite of your bacon butty, you tight-arsed bugger.”

What sources did you draw on when you were compiling the book?
There are sections of language in there that even I don’t understand. For instance, I’ve never taken drugs, so I had to go around all my mates and ask them what they’d taken and how the drug world works. My ex-girlfriend knew the most, to my absolute shock!

Is there any particular English slang that you think every Japanese person should know?

When I was in Rome, I saw some Japanese tourists who wouldn’t go out to the main square after dark—they all sat in their hotel rooms because they were scared. If Japanese ladies could be more aggressive in their answers to sexual come-ons, then they would feel safer. We all know if you push an Englishwoman too far, you’ll get a swift and harsh answer or a kick in the groin. Japanese people would do well if they had the confidence to say no in the correct manner for the situation.

Igirisu Eigo no Akko Zogon Jiten (True English) is available from major book stores and Amazon Japan.