Derek Gwyn Davies, born 1931, was editor of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review for 25 years. The weekly magazine was a reflection of Davies’ obnoxiousness and bullheadedness. It riled many heads of governments – till today the Review is banned in Singapore.
Towards the end of his editorship Davies concentrated on his own column, “Travelers’ Tales”. This was part diary and part commentary but became best known for pictures showing examples of broken English: a sign in a Bangkok tailor saying “Drop your trousers here” or one in a hotel asking guests to “Leave Your Values at the Front Desk.”
Davies retired in 1989 shortly after Dow Jones took over the Review. He watched in dismay what he considered the “dumbing down” of the publication by the American publishing company and the “gang journalism” so typical of American newsweeklies – he was proud of the fact that the Review was a magazine for writers and individual reporting.
Davies died in 2002, survived by his Japanese wife, two sons and a daughter.
Maybe I’m being hypersensitive but I’ve never enjoyed Davies’ “Travelers’ Tales” though I have friends who would turn to that page the moment the Review lands on their desks. I consider the column an affront to my writing ability – after all I am an author of some five books – some published by very reputable British publishing houses.
I don’t take pride in making fun of Asians’ poor use of English. I think sites like Engrish.com are not funny. I also don’t make fun of foreigners trying to speak our languages.
But obviously I’m a member of the minority – in the past year or so I have received so many email attachments making fun of English signs such as one from China saying “PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE FISHES WITH YOUR PRIVATE.” I take no pleasure in reading them. I don’t find it funny to see lackeys of colonizers laughing at their own kind.
In a sense it is an act of betrayal.
It is ass-kissing.