Sometimes, all it takes is a single missing or wrong word or even one letter for a message to convey a very different meaning than intended.

This was certainly the case for Twitter user 三雲 Mikumo's husband who made dinner for her and went out for the day, leaving a note.

Here's the note that left his wife in stitches and went viral on Twitter. Fortunately, it translates very well into English:

三雲 Mikumo gave us permission to post this image but requested that we refrain from linking to her account.

"Please eat your dinner in the fridge."

Depending on how you parse the sentence, this could either mean "Please eat the dinner which is in the fridge" or "Please go inside the fridge and eat your dinner there."

Something very similar happened in Japanese, due to the fact that Mikumo's husband used the grammatical particle で de, usually indicating the place where an action occurs.

Those who are learning Japanese or interested in the Japanese language can jump to our grammatical explanation here at the bottom of this article.

Cold treatment

Needless to say, Mikumo's husband's note had readers imagining his wife eating her dinner under very harsh conditions!

The Tweet went viral, garnering over 150,000 likes, and eliciting comments such as:

  • "Maybe he meant that she should eat it in the fridge because it's very perishable food."
  • "This must be some kind of new energy-saving life hack. Instead of heating up your dinner, you make it feel warm by cooling yourself down instead."
  • "Is it possible for an (adult) person to fit inside a (Japanese) refrigerator to begin with?"

In response to the popularity of the Tweet, Mikumo's husband left another note:

三雲 Mikumo gave us permission to post this image but requested that we refrain from linking to her account.

"Thank you for the many retweets and likes."

His Japanese had no errors this time and the meaning was surely conveyed to Mikumo's followers loud and clear.

Notes for Japanese learners

The phrase in Japanese was:

kyō wa reizōko no naka de gohan wo tabete kudasai

In Japanese, the grammatical particle で de is used to indicate the location of an action. Therefore, 冷蔵で reizōko de means "at the fridge" or, by extension, "in the fridge."

Instead, he could have used the particle の no which is used to indicate possession:

reizōko no gohan wo tabete kudasai

This would literally mean "Please eat the fridge's meal" or by extension "Please eat the meal in the fridge."

The most grammatically correct expression would have been:

reizōko no naka no gohan wo tabete kudasai

Or, to be even clearer:

reizōko no naka ni haitte iru gohan wo tabete kudasai

This means: "Please eat the meal which is inside the fridge."

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By - grape Japan editorial staff.