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When a new language is added to your life, you develop a new sense of self.

Can you understand “Japanese-English”?

Japanese-English_1

 

Today we’ll explore the world of wasei-eigo, or “Japanese-English”, which in itself is a word created by the Japanese.

For example, in Japanese, it’s not uncommon to use the word “(high) tension” when talking about someone who is in high spirits. So, a Japanese person who wants to ask an English speaker why they are so happy may say:

“You seem happy. Your tension is high today?”
“What!!?”

that’s probably how an English native-speaker would respond.

In English “tension” is usually used in reference to “electric voltage, “tightness”, “tense situations” and “something being stretched”. So, “high tension” is likely to be interpreted as “high voltage”.

What the Japanese person meant to say by using the word “tension” was that the English speaker was “Hyper”:

“You are hyper today.”

…is a more natural way of expressing it.

We’ve done some research into similar “Japanese-English” and “Katakana English”, which are often mistaken for “English”, but are incomprehensible to an average English speaker.

 

Here are some examples:

1. consent (コンセント) plug / wall socket
2. reform (リフォーム) renovation
3. skinship (スキンシップ) personal contact
4. order-made (オーダーメイド) taylor made
5. viking (バイキング) buffet / all-you-can-eat
6. no-sleeve (ノースリーブ) sleeveless
7. one-piece (ワンピース) dress
8. pair look (ペアルック) same outfit
9. sign (サイン) singature /autograph
10. claim(クレーム) complaint
11. gum tape (ガムテープ) duct tape
12. print (プリント) handout

 

Do they look familiar? I’m sure you’ve heard of them somewhere.

By the way, the origins of these words are actually quite interesting.
Take for example number 5, “viking”.

The word is taken from the name “Imperial Viking”, a buffet-style restaurant in the Imperial Hotel.

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So, as you can see, there are quite a lot of words that Japanese people use unconsciously that are in fact “Japanese-English” or loanwords. Readers studying Japanese beware!
The next time you hear someone using them, perhaps you can correct them – subtly, of course.

2017.04.04

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