Today’s survey from goo Ranking looks at Japanese-English, words that are English (or have their roots in English but have taken on distinct Japanese meanings. Specifically, the survey was about Japanese-English words people were unaware that they were Japanese-English only.

Demographics

The survey was conducted from the 21st to the 23rd of November 2013, and 1,054 people completed a private web-based questionnaire. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

I once tried to explain to a Japanese person that “speed up”, “slow down” and “slow up” were perfectly valid, but the Japanese-English “speed down” was nonsense in English!

Ranking result

Q: Which of the following words did you not realise were Japanese English? (Sample size=1,054)

Rank Japanese English English Score
1 Order made Made-to-order, tailor-made 100
2 Reform (a house, etc) Renovate 93.9
3 Skinship Child-rearing with frequent physical bonding, close physical relationship 93.3
4 Version up (software, etc) Upgrade 90.9
5 Cost down Decrease in price 85.0
6 Cost-performance Price-performance 85.0
7 After service After-sales, after-care 77.5
8 Book cover Dust jacket 73.5
9 Guardman Security guard 73.3
10 Dead ball (baseball) Hitting the batter with a pitch 72.7
11 Blind touch Touch typing 72.2
12 Decoration cake Decorated cake 70.9
13 Open car Open-top car, convertible 70.6
14 Concent Wall socket 70.3
15 Camping car Camper van, motor home 70.1
16= Key holder Key ring 69.0
16= Flying (at a start) Jumping the gun, false start 69.0
18 Front glass Windscreen, windshield 68.7
19 Name value Established reputation of a company, etc 68.2
20 Man to man (training, etc) One-to-one 66.8
21 Top batter (baseball) Lead-off man 66.3
22 Nighter (baseball, etc) Night game 64.7
23= Coin Laundry Laundrette, laundromat 64.4
23= Mishin Sewing machine 64.4
25 Ice candy Ice lolly, popsicle 63.9
26= Jet coaster Roller coaster 63.6
26= Jokki Beer mug 63.6
28 Trainer (clothing) Sweatshirt 61.0
29 Roll cabbage Cabbage roll, stuffed cabbage 60.2
30= Viking Buffet 58.6
30= Miss contest Beauty contest 58.6
32 Paper company Shell company 55.6
33= One-room mansion Studio apartment 55.3
33= Game centre Amusement arcade 55.3
35 Free dial Freephone, toll-free number 54.8
36 Apart (dwelling place) Apartment 54.5
37 Wide show Gossip program, tabloid TV 54.0
38 Sign pen Felt-tip pen, marker pen 49.7
39= Salaryman Salaried employee 44.7
39= Sharp pencil Propelling pencil, mechanical pencil 44.7

8 Comments

Jon Cousins · January 27, 2014 at 02:32

I disagree with some of these. Some of them are perfectly valid in English.
Including: Book cover, Key holder and Coin Laundry.

    Ken Y-N · January 27, 2014 at 22:38

    I agree! I suspect the compiler of the survey had just the one dictionary, and if it didn’t appear in the book, it went in the survey.

      Jon Cousins · January 27, 2014 at 22:50

      That would make sense.

Janne · January 27, 2014 at 09:54

Cost performance and camping car are also valid English. As are a number of others if you allow for a change in meaning. “salaryman” is extra interesting,I think, as it _is_ a valid English word nowadays, as an import from Japanese.

PeterL · January 27, 2014 at 12:12

Perhaps the author didn’t realise/realize that some words are specific to a particular dialect of English. I doubt that the average American would know what a “dust jacket” is; but would certainly know what a “book cover” is.

deer · February 21, 2014 at 23:19

Sorry, late to the party!

The most important distinction is not which is correct per se — @PeterL, a “dust jacket” generally refers to something different from a “book cover” — but this is beside the point.

What matters is whether it is comprehensible by English speakers. “Key holder” could be strange in some situations where “key chain” is more natural, but no one would have trouble understanding it.

On the other hand, “consent” (at least in the U.S.–I can’t speak for other English-speaking countries) would never be understood to mean “electrical outlet” and “viking” would never be understood as “all-you-can-eat buffet”. But “man-to-man”? Sure, why not? Even “nighter” or “top batter” seem to make perfect sense as long as you’re talking about baseball to begin with.

Basically, the survey creator would benefit from having a native English speaker involved in writing a survey like this. There are plenty of examples of Wasei-Eigo out there to draw from. And some can be figured out by English speakers and others can’t. It’s definitely a hangup of Japanese learners of English to think there’s *one right answer* to any question about English which is very far from the truth.

Next up, a multiple choice test for English speakers (who haven’t studied Japanese) to find out how easy it is to guess the meaning of Wasei-Eigo. 🙂

Jon Cousins · May 31, 2014 at 19:25

no

Weekly Links – 12 Week Report | Shimane PA Resources · March 12, 2014 at 11:45

[…] Katakana Words Japanese People Don’t Realise Aren’t English […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: