Happy Erection Day!

posted on 2 Nov 2010 in Engrish Text/Stories

It is election day here in the US – often mistaken as “erection day” in Japan. To commemorate, here are a few stories sent in to me over the years using the word:

From Greg Hill:

People think I made this story up, but it’s absolutely true.  I was tutoring a Japanese student at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s, and we came to a concept in a pollitical-science textbook.  It was the concept of a “critical election” that changes the fundamental direction of politics.  She asked me to explain further what a “clitical erection” was.  After I got my breath back, I told her that was another subject entirely.

Nicholas Bodley reminded me of this often told classic :

It was probably in 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was temporarily put in charge of running Japan, which was in tough shape after surrendering. He was such a decent overseer that many Japanese hoped that he could be voted into a position of power, possibly President of the USA. In one of Japan’s larger cities, they put up a banner across a principal street that said, something like

My facts might not be especially accurate, but “ERECTION” was definite. The tale is documented, although I’ve long lost the reference.

Jim Hansen wrote:

In 1975 I worked at a major sporting goods store (Oshmans’) in Concord, Ca. A very low cost tent from Taiwan was bought in large quantity and heavily advertized as a means of sucking in customers.
I wish I still had the directions to the tent so I could send you a photo; too many moves between then and now. At the top of the top of the one page printed directions for assembling the tent were these words:
“How to Achieve a good Erection”

Richard Frankland sent in this tale that sounds familiar:

During a visit to Japan about 18 years ago, I went to a photo exhibition in Kyoto of old photos in black & white from after the 2nd world war. One in particular left quite an impression. Eisenhower had just been elected as US president with a landslide victory, and he was on tour in Japan. The photo showed him sitting in an open top car driving down the middle of a Kyoto street,  and there was ticker tape flying. There was also a large banner from one side of the street to the other. The banner read “Congraturations on Eisenhowers enormous erection” .
Unfortunately I could not take a picture.

DPease wrote in:

Fall 1988, in the Yomiuri Shimbum (newspaper):  An 87 year old man had won the mayoral race in a small town in, I think, Aomori-Ken.  As usual in Japan, he was flanked in the photo by two young women in uniform, holding a flag in one hand and making a peace sign with the other.  Above the old man, who was grinning broadly, hung a huge banner in Engrish.  It read:  “Congraturations For Your Big Erection!”

Sheila Britton sent this personal anecdote:

My brother, who has Japanese in-laws, was spending the weekend at their home. His inlaws were early risers. On his way to the washroom, my brother came across his father-in-law in the hallway. His father-in-law smiled and exclaimed, “Ah, the erection!” My horrified brother glanced down at his pj’s, but then realizing that his english was not very good, thought that he probably meant something like, “Ah, he has arisen!” He mumbled good morning and tried not to laugh….

Nancy Lerandeau sent this way back in 2000:

After the presidential election while the Florida votes were still being recounted, one of my co-workers received an email from her Japanese daughter-in-law asking how our “greasy erection” was coming along.  She assumed she meant “crazy election”.

  • engrishwebmaster

    Now that I look at these stories again, I am guessing that the Eisenhower story is really the MacArthur story mixed up. I cannot seem to find any evidence that Eisenhower ever visited Japan.

    • Steve


  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-P08sAY1P4 MarikaA

    Japanese aren’t the only people with a problem saying election. Canadian PM Stephen Harper pronounces the french “élection” exactly as a Japanese would… for some strange reason. Here is a funny clip for anyone who understands a bit of French: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-P08sAY1P4

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