I'm trying to write the string あいうえお to my clipboard using the pbcopy command line tool like this

echo あいうえお | pbcopy

But what I'm getting in my clipboard is completely different : „ÅÇ„ÅÑ„ÅÜ„Åà„Åä.

I assumed this had something to do with the encoding, but the documentation says the encoding is based on the LANG environment variable and mine is set to en_EN.UTF-8.


2 Answers 2


I think your LANG=en_EN.UTF-8 is the problem.

When I execute this command

printf あいうえお | LANG=en_EN.UTF-8 pbcopy

and paste into a new TextEdit document I get „ÅÇ„ÅÑ„ÅÜ„Åà„Åä (incidentally, this is what you get if take the the UTF-8 encoding of your original text and decode it as MacRoman; you should be able to verify this by doing printf あいうえお | iconv -f macroman).

When I execute this command

printf あいうえお | LANG=en_US.UTF-8 pbcopy

and paste into a new TextEdit document I get あいうえお, just as one would expect.

I am pretty sure that en_EN.UTF-8 is not a valid locale (thus pbcopy is defaulting to MacRoman). Maybe you meant to use en_US.UTF-8 (i.e. US, not EN)? You can list the valid locales by running locale -a. If you are just interested in English UTF-8 locales, you can filter the list like this:

locale -a | grep '^en_.*\.UTF-8$'
  • Well that worked. I dunno why my LANG was en_EN instead of en_US. Didn't even realize that could be a problem.
    – Louis Boux
    May 15, 2014 at 15:43

More than likely its your Terminal. Enter the command locale and see what it says there. If it doesn't list some Japanese encoding, that's probably what it is. Also, try selecting "Unicode (UTF-8)" as the Character encoding from Preferences..., Settings, Advanced, International. Also play around with Preferences / Encodings, enabling the Japanese encodings (is that Japanese? idk! LOL).

Also make sure to set LANGUAGE="en_US.UTF-8" in your .bash_profile if it doesn't appear when you use the locale command.

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