Saturday, June 16, 2007

Let's Learn Japanese: Dame usagi

Dame usagi
Stupid rabbit ("Dame" can be translated as "no good," "unacceptable," "hapless" or "stupid." In this case, let's go with "stupid.")

This week Osaka-based Nova Corporation, proprietor of the omnipresent Nova English Conversation School chain (whose mascot is an allegedly cute, pink rabbit with a yellow beak), was ordered by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to suspend recruitment of new long-term contract customers for six months as punishment for illegal bait-and-switch practices and contractural misrepresentation.

[the story]

This is just one more troublesome black mark on the reputation of a company that has, in recent months, been especially troubled with bad press. In 1997, Nova repaid 3.8 million yen to a group of 18 students who complained of false advertising and had been subsequently forbidden by the company to cancel their contracts. In January 2007, seven Nova teachers were arrested for possession of cannabis and cocaine. And in March of 2007, a Nova teacher from the UK named Lindsay Ann Hawker was found strangled to death, presumeably by one of her students. Her body was found buried in a bathtub full of sand (one hand protruding) on the balcony of the student's apartment. The suspect remains at large.

Going from strange to stranger, consider this letter printed in February 2005 in Metropolis, Tokyo's self-proclaimed #1 English magazine. The writer claims to be Gil Cruz, a Nova employee who firmly believes that "Nova rocks," despite the fact that Nova employees are forbidden by their employer to speak publicly as representatives of the company. The letter sparked a mixed response of yeas and nays from others who had worked for Nova, and the question of whether Gil Cruz actually exists (and whether Nova does, indeed, rock) has yet to be answered.

This latest slap on the wrist by the government has caused a sudden 10% drop in Nova's stock value and many are unsure of what will become of the overgrown language giant. One thing is certain: If Nova ceases to exist, Tokyo pedestrians will have to figure out a new way navigating. Once, you could simply look up for the nearest Nova sign and know that the nearest rail station was not far away.

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